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The Akhalkalaki Doukhobors ...

For several decades after 1802, the Crimean Doukhobors had lived comfortably and peaceably in their "Milky Waters" (Molochnaya) villages and were relatively unmolested by state authorities for their non-violent resistance to military service. For reasons now under the scrutiny of contemporary researchers, these Doukhobors were then forcibly displaced from their villages between 1841 and 1845, and resettled to the remote southern Russian border frontier in the Caucasus Mountains. They were allotted land in the desolate and barren high altitude tablelands of the Akhalkalaki-Borchalin district (now Georgia) and the more favourable Elizavetpol district in the Lesser Caucasus in the Province of Tiflis (now Azerbaijan). After the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878, they were also granted additional lands near the city of Kars, ceded from the Ottoman Empire after the war. And by 1899, at the time of the historic Doukhobor emigration to Canada, there were estimated to be at least 20,000 Doukhobors living across these three regions in 21 villages. The Akhalkalaki district, the largest of the three, included the villages of Bogdanovka, Orlovka, Gorelovka, Efremovka, Troitskoe, Tambovka and Rodionovka, all of which were located just south of the historic Ottoman city of Akhalkalaki, and just north of the current Turkish border. The following map was prepared for this web page to visualize the three settlements and the Kura River valley Georgian lowlands near Tiflis (Tbilisi) to which over 5000 Akhalkalaki Doukhobors and a smaller number of Elizavetpol Doukhobers were exiled in response to the Historic Burning of Arms protest in 1895.

Link to a full-screen copy of this map

H.F.B Lynch map of the Armenian Plateau - from, Armenia - Travels and Studies, Volume 1, 1901

H.F.B Lynch and the "Wet Mountains" ...

While Doukhobors themselves have traditionally referred to the Akhalkalaki villagers as the "Cold Mountain"or "Kholodenskiye" Doukhobors, most contemporary writers have referred to them as the “Wet Mountain” Doukhobors. There may be some truth to the latter characterization as the Russian-Armenian tablelands and the Akhalkalaki region do indeed generally receive considerable annual rainfall. But then again, at an altitude ranging from 5500 to 7000 feet above sea level, this region also tends to be cold. Nonethelss the term "Wet Mountains" (Mokriye Gori) appears to have been adopted as standard usage in books, documents and common discourse. The term itself however does not appear by placename or specific geographical location on current maps of the Caucasus, in either English or Russian transliterated form. The origin of the term itself has likewise remained unclear. There is however an interesting reference to "Wet Mountains", identified as the “Mokri Gori” in Chapter V of H.F.B. Lynch’s 1901 book, "Armenia - Travels and Studies, Volume I". The author describes the source of the term and the geoclimatic conditions unique to the specific location of the Akhalkalaki Doukhobor villages that made their surrounding mountains "wet". A highly detailed map was created to accompany this book, which marks the precise location and extent of the Wet Mountains. The relevant text from Chapters IV and V of this book and the full sized map as well as close up versions are reproduced at the bottom of this page.

About H.F.B Lynch and the book ...

H.F.B. Lynch's maternal grandfather, Robert Taylor, during his tenure as a British Consul in Baghdad in the 1790s, married the daughter of an Armenian merchant. Harriet, one of their daughters, subsequently married Thomas Lynch, a Trinity College classical scholar in Ireland, who subsequently joined two brothers, Henry and Stephen Lynch in London to found the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company to commence business and trade in Mesopotamia. According to researchers, the brothers became "wealthy and connected" owning mansions in London and the Middle East. Thomas and Harriet's only son, Henry Finnis Blosse (H.F.B.) Lynch, who was earlier born in Ireland in 1862, followed the family business as a young man and also travelled extensively in the region in that capacity, later becoming chairman of the navigation company.

In the 1890s, H.F.B. Lynch embarked on two ambitious journeys to the Russian-Armenian and Turkish Caucasus, ostensibly motivated by curiosity and interest in his maternal Armenian heritage. But it appears that these sojourns were in fact, also meticulously planned to be fact finding missions to research content for the book on Armenia he had been preparing to write. He was accompanied on these journeys by his cousin, Major H.B. Lynch, and a Mr. E. Wesson, a professional photographer, on his first visit, who undoubtedly provided a good part of the numerous excellent photographs to be later incorporated in the book. Mr. F. Oswald, a friend and accomplished geologist, accompanied him on his second visit, presumably contributing his expertise and geological analysis of the Armenian tablelands, including, as it turned out, the volcanic and orographic influences on the Wet Mountains or Mokri Gori. Oswald's name also appears on the excellent lithographed topographic map of the Caucasus which was designed to be folded and included in the back of the book at extra cost. Harry Lynch, himself a Cambridge University student of the classics, appears to have been particularly interested in researching historic Armenian and Turkish archeology and architecture, focusing on ancient ecclesiastical ruins and military fortresses. On a personal level, he was also an avid adventurer, unafraid of difficult terrain, and also looking forward to a potential ascent of Mount Ararat. The book was highly regarded at the time of its publication in 1901 and by some accounts was considered to be the definitive book on Armenia. Interested readers can read or download an online copy of the first volume of the H.F.B. Lynch book, Armenia, Travels and Studies, here. (Link)

Gorelovka and Queen Lukeria ...

Readers interested in Doukhobor history may also be interested in Chapter VII of this book, titled "Gorelovka and Queen Lukeria". An excerpt from this chapter was submitted by the author himself in 1894, for publication in the London Contemporary Review, describing the segment of their journey through the Akhalkalaki Doukhobor villages on their way south through Russian Armenia. Their route is clearly marked as a red line on the following maps. Chapter VII (and the complete book itself) can be found here online in its entirety. (Link)

Lukeria Kalmykova and her guest house or besedka in the village of Gorelovka, H.F.B Lynch photo at right

Caucasian Geopolitics ...

The Caucasus had been experiencing geopolitical turmoil and war for most of the 19th century, in the latter decades, particularly involving the Russian and Ottoman Empires. Armenians, as Christians were wedged in between these two antagonistic empires, and as jurisdictional boundaries shifted over time, they were subjected to Islamic influences and Ottoman rule. Harry Lynch was undoubtedly aware of the massacres of Armenian civilians by Ottoman Kurdish militants taking place at that very time and was supportive of a heightened Armenian enthusiasm for a national autonomous identity. But although he may have attempted to avoid bias against either the indigenous Russian or Turkish population in his writing, he was privately uneasy with the general inclination of Armenians to favour alignment with Russia rather than Turkey. This was likely a reflection of the attitude of the British in general at that time, lingering well beyond the end of the multiple Crimean and Russian-Turkish wars in which they played a significant role in alliance with Turkey. And knowing Harry Lynch's multi-faceted ancestry, this would be perfectly understandable. After the Russian Turkish War of 1877-78, the British Foreign Office maintained a British Consul at Batum, as well as a Consul at Erzerum in Turkish Armenia where Lynch's uncle had also been a British diplomat. Curiously, there had been some speculation that even Harry's own travels in Armenia may have involved secret reconnaissance for the British intelligence services, although recent researchers have discounted that likelihood.

From a Doukhobor perspective ...

Beyond these few paragraphs, this web page will obviously not attempt to address issues that appear to have confounded professional diplomats for decades if not centuries. But without attaching blame to one side or other, it can be fairly stated from a Doukhobor perspective, that the British Consulate in Batum after that war, proved to play an important part in a sequence of events that may have saved the Doukhobors from their very imminent annihilation in the Caucasus in 1898-1899. The "Wet Mountain" Doukhobors were the first group of Doukhbors to receive sympathy and support from this office in their quest for a new country, where they hoped to find refuge from their relentless persecution. They emigrated first to Cyprus, which was then under British jurisdiction, then to Canada in 1899. The British Consul at the time, Mr. P. Stevens, played a significant role as a liaison between diplomats in England, Cyprus and Canada, often by telegram or despatch. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) stores reels of historical Doukhobor documents on microfilm, including copies of the interchanges between Batum, the London Foreign Office, the Canadian Governor General, and Clifford Sifton's Canadian immigration office. The following is one example: (Link).


The Mokri Gori close-up maps and excerpts from Ch4. & 5 ...

KEY:  Tapa (Hill)    Chai (River)   Dagh or D (Mountain)   Dere (Valley)    Gol (Lake)

View the full H.F.B. Lynch 1901 map of the Caucasus. (Link)

Armenia Travels and Studies Vol. I - On Akhalkalaki (from the end of Chapter 4)

On the following day we proceeded to Akhalkalaki up the valley of the Toporovan. The posting station of Abazbek, 14 versts from Aspinja, is situated some distance up the valley, and the stage between it and Akhalkalaki is one of 18 versts or 12 miles. It was between these points that we travelled for the first time in a brichka, or springless posting cart. The drive occupied about three hours, and the road, which was well constructed, mounted continuously, following and fronting the swirling current of the Toporovan. The gardens of Khertvis extend for some distance beyond the castle, and a portion of the township lies upon this side. Then the margin of the river contracts to the verge of disappearance, and stony cliffs, with an elevation of about 200 feet, border the water on either bank. It is in fact a deep crack in the surface of the plateau, upon which the town of Akhalkalaki stands. Not a village did we pass, or any oasis among the rocks; it was indeed a bleak scene. But the sky, flaked in places with wandering white clouds, was intensely clear and blue, and the foaming river refreshed the scene. After passing the low edifice of the castle of Akhalkalaki, which lines the edge of the cliff on the left bank, we crossed to that bank by a wooden bridge and wound slowly up the hillside. It was evident that we had arrived almost at the head of the formation, the point where the watercourse descends from the surface of the plateau and eats deeply into the volcanic soil. It was almost night when we reached the level summit of the cliff and breathed the crisper air. A place was found for our tents in an open space of the little town, which is situated at an elevation of 5545 feet above the sea.

At Akhalkalaki we had reached a country which is peopled in large preponderance by the Armenian race. The town is the centre of an administrative division (ouezde), which is dependent upon the Government of Tiflis. This division is partitioned into two administrative districts, of which the most northerly takes its name from the village of Baralet, on the way to Lake Tabizkhuro; while the more southerly is called the district of Bogdanovka, a Russian settlement on the road to Alexandropol. The population of the division amounts to a total, according to the published statistics, of 59,500 souls; or, according to the figures which were kindly communicated to me by the Governor, of 66,000 souls. The numbers of the Armenians are given in the first of these lists as over 42,000, a proportion of seven-tenths of the whole; while in the Governor’s list, which, I presume, is the most recent, they are censused at 58,000, a proportion of seven-eighths. I am inclined to place more reliance on the total furnished by the Governor than upon his subdivision according to race; and I shall conclude that the Georgians contribute a sixth of the inhabitants and the Russian settlers something less than a tenth. These figures do not comprise the town of Akhalkalaki, which, out of a total population of something over 4000, contains 4000 Armenian inhabitants.

Armenia Travels and Studies Vol. I - On Mokri Gori (from the beginning of Chapter 5)

Be they immigrants or aboriginal, the character of their surroundings is in harmony with the instincts of their race. A vast and elevated plain upon which the snow lies in winter and a southern sun shines. A fertile volcanic soil, abounding in springs and favourable to cereals of every kind. Measured from north-east to south-west, the plain of Akhalkalaki has a length of nearly forty miles; its latitudinal extension may be gauged by the course of the Kur on the west, and, on the east, by that of the stream which issues from Lake Madatapa and skirts the outworks of the eastern meridional range. The plain is situated at an altitude which ranges between 5500 and 7000 feet. The soil, when exposed by the plough, is black in colour, or, perhaps, dark chocolate, and reveals the influence of the lavas below. The extreme evenness of the surface is due to the fluid nature of these [volcanic] lavas, which streamed, at a comparatively recent period, from fissures at the southern base of the Trialethian Mountains and from vents at other points of the mountain girdle which encircles the flat expanse. On the floor of the plain itself the effects of volcanic action are visible in the forms of hummock and rounded hill. Volcanic emissions have produced the lap-like enclosures which are the reservoirs of the lonely lakes. Their waters are fed by springs from beneath the surface, and by copious rains from the clouds of the Pontic region, which fly the topmost bulwarks of the tableland and distil on the western slopes of the meridional volcanic barrier, the limit on the east of the even ground. From Agrikar to Karakach is the section of this barrier along which this process of condensation is most pronounced; the mountains are known by the natives under the collective name of Mokri Gori, the wet mountains. The principal stream, besides the Kur, is that which issues from Lake Toporovan, and, descending south, flows through Lake Tuman. After emerging on the southern shore, it receives an affluent from Lake Madatapa, and pursues a northerly course. Where we arrived upon its margin, half an hour south of Akhalkalaki, it was a nice flash of water, flowing slowly over the surface of the plateau. Below the town it is joined on the left bank by a stream which has descended from the northern slopes of the Chaldir Hills; and further west, on the right bank, by the river of Samsar, which brings the drainage of the north-easterly arm of the plain and flows in a deeply eroded bed.

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