Hovsep Emin

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Joseph Emin (1726-1809) was a prominent figure in the history of the Armenian Liberation movement and one of the first Armenian Enlightenment activists.

Early Life

Emin was Born in Hamadan, Iran, in 1726. The country was in turmoil, following the Afghan occupation of Isfahan and the fall of the Safavids, and as a child Emin had witnessed first hand the troubles of his family and other Christians at the hands of local Muslim officals.

In 1744 Emin moved to India to join his merchant father in Calcutta. For years he had dreamed of going to Europe to learn the military art and other sciences, with the final aim of moving to Armenia to be of use to his country.

Life in England

In 1751, aginst his fathers wishes Emin left for London. His first four years there were filled with misery and hard labour, and he was deprived of any financial assistance from his father. However in 1755 Emin experienced a turning point in his life. He met and befriended Edmund Burke, the future British statesman and the political writer, with those support he gained access to the circles of British intellectuals and nobility. He recieved sponsorship of the Lord Northumberland and was finally admitted to the military academy of Woolwhich , where he remained for thirteenth months after which he enlisted as volunteer in the British and Prussian armies during their war against France.

Start of Emins efforts to Liberate Armenia

Emin left London in 1759 and traveled to Echmiadzin, passing through the Armenian areas of the Ottoman Empire on his way. His initial strategy for liberating Armenia involved attempting to motivating the Catholicos of Echmiadzin toward the idea of first liberating the Armenia from Ottoman and Persian rule and then proceeding to secure the cooperation of the Armenian meliks of Karabagh and the King Heraclius II of Georgia, who, after the death of Nadir Shah, had liberated his country from the Persian yoke and reestablished the Georgian Kingdom. However Emin was dissapointed with the ignorance of the Armenian clergy and decided to return to London to pursue other avenues for his liberation plans.

Second Phase of Emir's Liberation Efforts

Emir returned to England in early 1761 from where he secured passage to Russia from Price Golitsyn, the Russian Ambassador to England. In St Petersburg he met with the Russian Imperial Chancellor, Count Voronstov to whom he presented his plans to go to Georgia , enter the service of King Heraclius II, and help liberate Armenia. Emin entered Tiblisi in 1763 with a letter of recomendation from Count Voronstov to King Heraclius II and accompanied by a large group of Armenian volunteers who had joined him from Armenian settlements in the North Caucasus.

In Tiblisi Emin stressed to the king the historical links between the Armenian and Georgian peoples and the monarchs legitimate rights to extend his rule over his ancestral lands, assuring him that a small but discipled army could easily cross over into Armenia, where a general revolt against Persian and Ottoman rule would take place. Tens of thousands of volunteer fighters, mostly gathered by Hovhan, the head of the religous order of St. Karapet Monastry in Moush, Western Armenia, would assist him in defeating the Muslim forces, allowing the establishment of a joint Kingdom of Armenia and Georgia.

While King Heraclius initially showed some interest in Emin's plans he eventually saw Emin as a challenger and a few months after his arrival into Tiblisi Emin was forced to leave Georgia and cross into the Northern Caucasus. Emin remained in the region for the following five years, spending alot of time among the mountain tribes, with whose assistance he was finally able to reach Karabagh and the mountainous Zangezour region in Armenia where he tried to pursue his liberation plans with the local Armenian notables and the Armenian Catholicos of Gandzasar. Realizing he needed the help of the Georgian king for any hope of success, he returned briefly to Georgia again only to be ordered to leave.

Return to India

After his second failed attempt to persuade King Heraclius, Emin left Georgia, and passing through Armenia and Iran, returned to India in 1770, where he tried to secure financial support from Armenian merchants to go back to Armenia to maintain a 'few troops' there. But facing clerical opposition again, he failed. Emin remained in India for the rest of the his life, until 1809, and devoted his time and energy to keeping the idea of the liberation of Armenia alive.