Caucasian Albania

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Caucasian Albania


one of the oldest states in eastern Transcaucasia, inhabited by mixed tribes, including Albanians, along the shores of the Caspian Sea and in the lower reaches of the Araks and Kura rivers.

Caucasian Albania became important in history because it included the Caspian Gates at the city of Chol near present-day Derbent, which served as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Archaeological excavations in the Azerbaijan SSR (at Mingechaur, Chukhurkabal, Sofula, Kabala, Toprakhkal, Khynyslakh, and other places) and writings of ancient authors (such as Arrian, Pliny, Strabo, Appianus, and Plutarch) and of Armenian chroniclers (such as Faustus, Egishe, Khorenatsi, and Chorene) indicate that by the end of the first millennium B.C. the population of Caucasian Albania practiced plow farming, distant-pasture animal husbandry, and various crafts. These occupations formed the material base for an early slaveholding system and a state headed by an emperor and a high priest. At the beginning of the Common Era vestiges of primitive communal property (temple property was one of its forms) were still evident in Caucasian Albania.

Rock inscriptions in Caucasian Albania show that primitive magic gave rise to drawings, painting, folk dances and theater, music, and oral folk art. The moon was considered the highest deity in Caucasian Albania. The chief city at the beginning of the Common Era was Kabala. Its ruins are still preserved in present-day Kutkashen Raion in Azerbaijan SSR.

In the first century B.C. the people of Caucasian Albania fought heroically, with the peoples of Armenia and Georgia, against the invasions of the ancient Romans into Transcaucasia (campaigns of Lucullus in 69–67 B.C. and of Pompey in 66–65). In the third to the fifth centuries A.D. feudal relations arose here and facilitated the establishment of Christianity as a state religion. The Christian church in Caucasian Albania was headed by an autocephalous Albanian catholicos. In the fifth century Caucasian Albania took an active part in the revolt against the Sassanids (450–51) lead by the Armenian prince Wardan Mamikonian. In the sixth century the Sassanids destroyed the dynasty of the Albanian emperors, but Caucasian Albania continued the fight against the oppression of the Sassanid shahs and its independence was restored in the seventh century. The most outstanding ruler of Caucasian Albania in the seventh century was DzhevanshirGirdymanskii (638–70). Under his rule Albanian literature developed and the history of the Agvan was composed. This history, written by the Armenian historian Movses Kagankatvatsi, is a major source on the history of Caucasian Albania. Architectural monuments of Caucasian Albania from the fifth and sixth centuries are preserved in the present-day villages of Lekit and Kum in Azerbaijan SSR.

In the eighth century a large part of the population of Caucasian Albania became Muslims under the caliphate. In the ninth and tenth centuries Albanian princes restored the imperial authority over Caucasian Albania several times for short periods. Later most of the territory of Caucasian Albania was incorporated into the Azerbaijan feudal states, Shirvan and others. Some of the present-day Azerbaijanis are descendants of the ancient population of Caucasian Albania.


Istoriia Azerbaidzhana, vol. 1. Baku, 1958.
Voprosy istorii Kavkazskoi Albanii: Sb. st. Baku, 1962. (A collection of articles.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.