The Institute of manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of Georgia
Zaza Aleksidze 

The Institute of manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of Georgia has already held three expeditions to Mount Sinai (in 1990, 1994 and No-vember-December of 1996) to study the manuscripts that had been first found in 1975. 133 manuscripts have been described during the first expedition. We managed only to give numbers to 15 manuscripts the leaves of which had been stuck together in a compact mass. Just before our depar-ture we saw great number of fragments, we could not manage to look through. Even then it became evident that the preparation of the catalogue for publication would need having more expeditions. The second and third expeditions contained more people. Besides the scholars, the restorers also participated. Some 140 manuscripts have been described and sorted out by the expedition and microfilms of the 1600 frag-ments were made. The work performed by the restorers was immensely ef-fective. They managed to open 15 manuscripts turned into compact mass and 77 manuscripts underwent preliminary preventive works. How should this new discovery be categorized? 1. There are now more then 230 manuscripts and 1600 fragments in Si-nai collection, in all. Thus, at present much more is known about Georgian colonies on Sinai and about their activities, than it was known till nowadays. A great number of Sinai manuscripts (old and new ones) date back to the 10th c. The comparison of the manuscripts (old and new ones) preserved and written here in various languages (Greek, Arabic, Syriac etc.), reveals that the second half of the 10th c. is mainly marked by presence of Georgi-ans on Mount Sinai. One of the most interesting innovations is that the colo-phons of manuscripts in the new collection supply new information about the Georgians' building activities on Mt. Sinai. 2. New Georgian material from Sinai has preserved the ecclesiastical lit-urgy called Hierosolymite. They are service books written up till the 10th c. (hymnography, lectionaries, liturgies, calendars) that were lost in other lit-eratures. It happened due to the fact that new liturgy, called Constantino-32 pohtan or Byzantine, come into use since the 10th c. Some attempts have been made to reveal this stage on the basis of Armenian literature. The Armenian Church separated the Chalcedonian too early for the reforms introduced by Or-thodoxy to have had any impact on it The old collection of Sinai and especially the new one, have changed the emphasis. Now the attention is focused also on Georgian as it is the one showing the oldest stage of liturgy. 3.The New Sinai collection reveals the close contacts of the Georgian breth-ren on Sinai with other Georgian centres of culture. Likewise, the information that the Georgians on Mt. Sinai maintained close contacts with the Mount Athos and the Athonites proves to be most important one. 4. A number ofcodeces are preserved in new Georgian collection which pro-vide the names of hitherto unknown authors, such as the Sinaite holy father Sam-uel the Georgian. 5. The new collection includes the two oldest recensions of the first Georgian historical work "Conversion ofKartIi (Georgia)" and "The Lives of 13 Syrian fathers". We are fortunate enough to have the photocopies of these manuscripts and they are being studied at present. 6. The information given in Sin-50 of the new collection has proved to be unique as far as it concerns one of the most interesting periods of Georgian his-tory of6-7th c. Only some scanty, authentic sources shed light on this particular period. It gives the catalogues of big cloister libraries and a description of their treasure; there are exact chronological and genealogical data of Georgian Kings, Dukes and their family members probably derived from tombstone inscriptions. This information outstrips by several centuries the lineage and chronology of the Bagratids and Rustavelis. 7. Particular international interest will be aroused by an amount of newly dis-covered palimpsests . The lower texts of the 10th c. manuscripts are Georgian, Greek, Syriac, Ethiopian, Coptic and several pages of Armenian. Unfortunately, the expeditions did not have enough time and possibility to study the palimpsests, they look as if they will bring forth unforeseen new discoveries. Two manuscripts among mem may serve as an example. My present paper deals with information about these manuscripts. We can say for sure that two underwriting texts of the palimpsests found on Mount Sinai represent the monument or monuments of the lost literature of Caucasian Alba-nia. Caucasian or Caspian Albania, as it is called in order to differentiate it from Balkan Albania, was situated in Eastern Transcaucasia, mostly on the territory of modem Azerbaijan. The main problems concerning Albania of the antique period and early Middle Ages are as follow: when was the state formed on this territory? How far did it spread? How did the process of ethnic and cultural consoli-dation flew there? Did the Albanians create their original script and litera-ture? If so, how well it developed and how long did it exist? Caucasian studies face two radically diverse positions concerning the aforementioned problems. According to one hypothesis of Armenian scholars (sometimes called the "New point of view"), the Albanian Kingdom was formed at the beginning of the 1st c. BC. Its border spreads to the south only as far as the river Mtkvari (Kura). According to Strabo, the Albanians consisted of 26 tribes. Ethnical consolidation in the Albanian Kingdom did not take place till the 3rd c. A.D. and each tribe spoke its own language. The Albanian Kingdom was abolished in 462 and the Sasanids created a Persian province (Marzpanate) under the name of "Albania". It comprised two provinces of the Former Great Armenia: "Utiq" and "Artsakh" that were situated on the right bank of the river Mtkvari ("Kura"). The annexation of Utiq and Artsakh to Albania is sometimes dated to 387, when Armenia was divided into two parts between Byzantine and Iran. The "New point of view" suggests that though these provinces were called "Albania", this name did not aquire ethnonimic implication but only political one. Gradually, Ar-menian provinces, situated on the right bank of the river Mtkvari adopted this name without implying the Albanians living on the left bank and Arme-nians of these provinces considered that they had had that name from the beginning. Likewise, the so called "Albanian outlook" and "Albanian patri-otism" were formed among the inhabitants of Armenian provinces dwelling on the right bank of the river Mtkvari; though they never lost the Armenian outlook on the world. These provinces, compared to the native Albanians living on the left bank of the river Mtkvari, have formed "New Albania" as for cultural and economic point of view they were at higher level of devel-opment. The language of the church and the country was Armenian. Mash-tots (Mesrop), granted Armenian alphabet (36 graphemes) to Armenian population of Albania and created new script (52 graphemes) for the native Albanians. Thus, when speaking about creating new alphabet for the coarse language of barbarian Albanians, he means the native Albanians; but when speaking about Bible translation by the Albanians, he means Armenian part of Albania. Native Albanians could not create their own literature and they soon mingled with other people. When the sources of middle ages narrate about Albanian written literature we must identify it as not native Albanian one, but as the Armenian written literature created by the population ofUtiq, Artsakh and Gardman. The Armenian scholars who adopt this "New point of view" are challenged by scholars in Azerbaijan. In their view the territory of Albania, including the right bank of the river Mtkvari, has always remained un-changed throughout its existence. Utiq and Artsakh have only temporarily been seized by Armenia and in 387 it is returned to Albania. The whole ter-ritory of Albania including the disputable province of Karabakh in modem Azerbaijan is populated by a single people of ethnic lineage, changing only its language and religion throughout the centuries. Albanian script was cre-ated at the beginning of the 5th c. successively followed by translated and original literature. The Arab invaders and the Armenian Church ravaged the monuments of Albanian written language in the 8-10th cc. Before that, the Armenians had translated works on the history of Albania and ecclesiastical canons. That explains why they are preserved only in Armenian language. Being under the influence of the Armenian Church, consequently, the lan-guage and the literature of the monophysite Albanian Church, gradually be-comes Armenian. Thus all the outstanding Albanian figures of the 10-13th cc. originating from the former Albania situated on the right bank of the river Mtkvari (for instance, Mkhitar Gosh, Kirakos of Ganzak) ought to be considered Albanian writers and public figures using Armenian language. What have we known about the Albanian literature up to now? Armenian sources are the only ones presenting substantial information about Albanian script and literature. The sources dealing with Mesrop-Mashtots' life must be considered first. According to Koriun, Moses Khore-natsi, Moses Kalankatuatsi, and others (not taking into consideration the differences), Mesrop-Mashtots at the beginning of the 5th c. "created alpha-bet for the Gargarians' pharyngal, disharmonious, barbaric and coarse lan-guage". The books of the Prophets, the books of Apostles and the Gospels were also translated by his assistance. The most precise documentary evidence for the existence of Albanian script and written language is represented in the proceedings of the councel in Dvin in 506, representing the whole of Transcaucasia. In his letter to the Christians living in Persia, the Catholicos of Armenia, Babgen, says that the letter was written "in consent with Georgians and Albanians, according to the letters of each country". The Albanian historian Moses Kalankatuatsi's (Moses Daskhurantsi) work is available in a 10th c. Armenian version. The author wrote his work in the 7th c. and he names the nations that had their own script at that time and mentions Albanian language among them. Further accounts about the existence of the Holy Scripture in Albanian language is represented by the 8th c. Armenian historian - Ghevond. The languages that had Gospels are named in his work and Albanian language occupies the 12th place among them. This sums up the factual information about Albanian script and litera-ture. A search for the Albanian written language has been undertaken since the 1830s. Scholars have from time to time received news of finding Alba-nian manuscripts and epigraphical monuments. The news was invariably sensational, but has always proved to have been premature. In all the cases the texts were written in an unknown manner of either Armenian or Greek script; sometimes, indeed, it proved to be a cryptogram. Georgian scholar Ilia Abuladze found the Albanian Alphabet in a manual of Armenian grammar, among the alphabets of Armenian, Greek, Jewish, Georgian, Syriac and Arabic languages, when there was almost no hope of finding it. In the world of scholarly literature it caused such a great effect that the date - 28th of September, 1937 was fixed exactly. The outstanding Armenian scholar Hr. Acharian wrote in the "Herald" of Armenian Acad-emy of Sciences: "Young Georgian scholar Ilia Abuladze is worthy of un-limited honour and praise, who on the 28th of September, 1937 discovered Albanian alphabet among other Manuscripts of Echmiadzin". He also com-pared the post-discovery condition to a sudden exposure to the daylight of a man who had been in the darkness for ages. I. Abuladze only made an announcement about the discovery and passed it on for further study to A. Shanidze. The principal pathos of this analyses was to prove that it actually was Albanian alphabet, that it was correct in whole and that the system of sounds must have belonged to the Udian lan-guage, in the Lezgian group of Caucasian languages. It seemed to be a signal to further discoveries. One more manuscript with Albanian script was found since then in California but it proved to be a co-pie of the 15th c. manuscript discovered by I.Abuladze. The archaeological discoveries of 1948-1952, caused new impetus in the development of Albanian studies. Several lapidary inscriptions and graffiti were discovered on the territory of Azerbaijan. The unity of these discover ies is conventionally called the Corpus of Albanian inscriptions. The overall number of the graphemes is approximately 200 and was dated back to the 6-9th cc. by the archaeologists. The pillar with Albanian text, discovered in Dagestan is rightly considered by the specialists to be untrustworthy as it is the exact copy of Armenian alphabet given in Armenian manuscripts. The archaeological discoveries promised that Albanian texts would eas-ily be deciphered as it was known what language to attribute it to and the alphabet with its corresponding meanings was at hand. Specialists from a number of countries participated in deciphering the inscriptions. But the promise was not fulfilled. Each specialist began everything from the begin-ning not taking into consideration specific results of his predecessors. Nowadays, it has become evident to everybody that despite some minor successes in deciphering Albanian script, all the attempts have ended in a deadlock. Albanian alphabet given in the Armenian manuscript has been rewritten several times by a scribe who did not know the script he reproduced. He sometimes makes mistakes in shaping the letters. Albanian graphemes re-semble Armenian ones that are familiar to him. As a result it makes it diffi-cult to identify the graphemes of the alphabet and the graphemes of the cor-pus of the inscriptions. The writer sometimes makes mistakes in giving pho-netic meaning of the graphemes (the same mistakes that we can easily check are made concerning Georgian and Greek alphabets); the phonematic meaning of Albanian alphabet, presented in the manuscript is given by means of Armenian phonetics that inevitably causes great differences, as 36 phonemes in Armenian language cannot reproduce 52 phonemes in Alba-nian alphabet. Most number of Albanian corpus of inscriptions are the graf-fiti, where the outline of the letters depends on the material, the skill of the author and his own handwriting. Only 32 graphemes out of probable 52 ones have been proved to be in the corpus of inscriptions. The lack of long and continuous text makes it impossible to scheme various data. We could not be entirely sure that Albanian writing must be deciphered by means of Udian language as Gargarian language is mentioned in the sources. It is certain that the Udian language that is today spoken only by some thousand people, is rather far from old Albanian language. All these difficulties be-came evident in the process of attempts to decipher Albanian writings. They proved to be futile. New blood transfusion for Albanian studies became nec-essary. Precisely 60 years ago A. Shanidze wrote: "We should hope that by means of special researches and archaeological excavations in Azerbaijan (and first of all on the adjoining territory with Bardav) Albanian written texts will be found. Some clues to them have already been found. Besides, it is possible that sometime and somewhere in some library, among the pal-impsests there will be found some fragments of manuscripts in Albanian language". The first hope was realized 10 years after those words had been written and 60 years later was realised another prediction. What view shall we take of the newly discovered Albanian texts and what can we therefore state? We have to remember that these are texts which have not been yet rewritten and consequently have not been deci-phered. 1 .We are now certain that Albanian literature has existed and did not die in the bud. 2. The discovered text (or even texts) is written in the same high stan-dard as similar texts in Armenian and Georgian. It is written in two columns in delicate uncial, bold and well-trained handwriting. It has initial letters with punctuation and abbreviation markings. There are some commentaries or notes about the paragraphs on the borders written in small letters. Head-ings are written in bold letters as compared to the text. According to the all aforementioned features, Albanian writing kept up with its contemporary Armenian and Georgian written culture. 3. The Albanian text must be an ecclesiastical work. Typologically, it does not differ from the similar Georgian and Armenian written monuments. According to common features, the palimpsests take after the Georgian-Jewish palimpsest of 6-7th cc., kept in the Bodleian library in Oxford. Ac-cording to the sources, the Albanians had translated the books of Prophets, Apostles and the Four Gospels. As far as the text has not been deciphered yet, I consider that Albanian text may likely be the Acts of the Apostles. 4. To say that Albanian texts had not been searched for among the pal-impsests would be untrue. But the main mistake was that they were mainly searched for among Armenian manuscripts. A. Shanidze also, wrote about it: "such fragments can likely be found in Armenian manuscripts. I have worked in this direction in Echmiadzin in 1924, but without any results". The thing is that the time of the development of Albanian Christian litera-ture dates to the 5-7 th cc, and especially to the 6-7 th cc., when it keeps close connections to the Georgian Church. It is independent at this stage and is confined to reconciling the doctrines of Zeno's Henoticon between the diophysites and the monophysites. Later on it opposes the Armenian Church, and allies itself with Chalcedonian and Georgian Churches. It is the only time of its free development. But from about 720 onwards it was strongly affected by the influence of the Monophysite Armenian Church. According to the sources, the Armenian Church burnt the Albanian literature considered to be diophysite. Consequently the Monophysite Albania changed to Armenian language and script. Thus, the diophysite world, and particularly Georgia, affords greater chances for the survival of the frag-ments of Albanian written language. How did the palimpsests with this Albanian text come to Mount Sinai? It is evident that the manuscript was being kept untouched till the 10th c. Evi-dently, some people knew its importance throughout all this time and it still was in demand. The manuscript was very likely reused either on Mount Si-nai or somewhere in the Palestinian region. It was normal for the 10th c. Sinai book makers to reuse the manuscript or to reuse the torn parts of old manuscripts for sewing new ones, as there was a great shortage of parch-ments. This fact is proved by the great amount of palimpsests in Sinai col-lections and by notes on the shortage of parchment in colophons. The Albanian Church considered Elisha (Elisei), one of the 70 Apostles of Christ, who was ordained by James, brother of the Savour, to be its illu-minator. He came from Jerusalem and this explains the special attraction of the Albanian Church to the Holy Land and this would also cause the prob-ability of their pilgrimage to that place. Moses Kalankatuatsi gives an ac-count of Albanian churches and monasteries in Jerusalem, with their names and exact pointing to the places of location. Besides, he gives precise infor-mation about Albanian clergymen in the churches in the 10th c., about those churches where Christian Arabs held services and about those that are in the possession of Arabs, not implying whether these Arabs are Christians or not. Moses Kalankatuatsi gives the overall number of Armenian and Albanian churches in Jerusalem and however exaggerated the number ( more than a hundred) it is still rather impressive. Evidently, Moses Kalankatuatsi (even may be Moses Daskhurantsi, 10th c.) means the monophysite Albanian Churches. But in 4-7 th cc. they ought to have been Chalcedonian ones. As we can see there are two ways for Albanian manuscripts to come to Mount Sinai. A). The Albanian manuscript came into Georgia in the hands of Chal-cedonian Albanians after the Albanian Church became monophysite. Within a certain period of time there was no one left who could read it and in the 10th c. the manuscript was washed away. A new text was rewritten on the previous one and was donated to Mount Sinai. B). After the Albanian Church became monophysite, the text that had been made in the Chalcedonian Albanian circle of Palestine, came to Mount Sinai either via St. Saba or a Georgian monastery in Jerusalem . Georgians (or even Albanians who had become Georgians and brought the manuscript as a relic to the Mount Sinai) could not understand the Albanian text. The shortage of parchment made him wash away the text and write a new Geor-gian text anew. Incidentally, G. Klimov has supposed the possibility of finding Albanian text outside the territory of the Caucasia. In 1984, in the "Junior Philologist Encyclopaedia" he wrote: "New discoveries can be ex-pected not only in the Transcaucasia, but even in historical centres of for-eign Christian East". 5. Two palimpsests with Albanian texts, enumerating 170 folios, with 12 fragments have survived. The lower text in many cases has been so much washed away that it is impossible to read it. It is still difficult to say how many pages will possibly be read by means of applying special equipment. I suspect that the entire number of the pages will not be less than 100. Luck-ily, there are pages that can easily be read even now. Thus, a continuous text exists and there is a possibility that we can decipher it, even though the Al-banian alphabet found in 1937 cannot always provide evidence. At this point I have got the entire microfilms of both manuscripts. I have reproduced 10 pages of the Albanian text and three frames (two pages of the open book from both manuscripts). On the bases of this material was composed the Albanian alphabet that stands closer to the graphemes of the inscriptions than to the alphabet from the Armenian manuscript. All the words, with abbreviation markings are written out from the text that we have at hand. We know in general the words and proper names that had such markings in old texts. All this makes it possibile to read them, to state pho-netical meanings of the graphemes and the case makings of the names, etc. Some words and even bigger phrases are often repeated in the text. Ac-cording to the data of the Udian language, the meaning of some words have been read and stated; there are separated infinitive endings of the verbs. Before the Albanian text is fully copied it is difficult to determine the exact number of the graphemes used in it. We shall probably make mistakes in reading the lower text of the palimpsest, since some of the graphemes may have lost distinctive details, or they have been covered by the upper text and are therefore illegible. Some separate graphemes may be confused with technical signs, etc. But it is evident that even the preliminary reckon-ing of the number of graphemes given in the Albanian text is very close to the number of the graphemes discovered by I. Abuladze. At present, I can only say that this number may fluctuate between 50 and 56. The shape of the letters of the Albanian text found on Mount Sinai is graphically rather closer to the graphemes of the inscription corpus, than to the alphabet of the Armenian manuscript. This is natural, as the Armenian manuscript is rather a late one and the Armenian scribes sometimes distort the Albanian alphabet or just write it in a similar way to the Armenian al-phabet. The graphemes of the Sinai text and the corpus of inscriptions differ in just the way that neatly written manuscripts differ from graffitis. Typo-logically, the graphemes of Sinai manuscripts are very close to the Georgian and Armenian languages. But the frequency of semblance with Georgian is a bit more than with the alphabet of an Armenian letters. 20 graphemes of Georgian alphabet coincide with Albanian ones without any difference though, evidently they differ in pronunciation. It is interesting that in the layer of both manuscripts Armenian text can also be read. Thus 13 and 55 manuscripts of new Georgian collection from St. Catherine's library, actually embrace entire ancient Christian Caucasia. Despite other discoveries, this single fact would bear greatest historical and symbolic importance to display the unity of Christian Caucasia. It seems that the Armenian text in N/Sin-55 is mainly written in one col-umn, in bold capital (Erkatagir) letters, horizontally along Georgian text. Conventionally we shall call it "Arm. I", though there are some pages with Armenian text written in small, thin letters, in one column, in Erkatagir writing, and like Albanian it reads perpendicularly to Georgian text (con-ventionally called "Arm.2"). In N/Sin-13 the text is written in the second type manner. This indicates that the Georgian scribe uses different Armenian manuscripts to create two Georgian manuscripts. At present I can only state that Armenian text in both Manuscripts can be traced with the naked eye, only on 20 pages. The "Arm.l" paleographically is evidently very old. It may be placed between 5-7th c. According to our present knowledge of Armenian paleog-raphy the "Arm.2" should be considered to be written in later period but its 'terminus ante quern' is 9th c. as far as the Georgian text is written on it at the beginning of the 10th c. Besides, the "Arrn.2" also bears some evidences indicating that it had been written in the earlier times than the 9th c. These features are as follows: there is no evidence of titles, that means that they were used infrequently; no separation marks can be traced; letters are writ-ten strictly between two lines and only P ("Pure") and K ("Ke") letters stretch beyond the line; There are no initial letters either, even though, there should be some, still they were not expected to be found at present places; partially rounded letters have the shape of crescent, etc. The question of correlation of the Armenian text with the Albanian is likely to arise immediately. Do we have three texts successively written on one another or is there no connection between Armenian and Albanian? At present I consider it difficult to give a decisive answer to this question. The whole text should be studied by ultra-violet filming and computer pro-grammes. At this stage, it seems to me that Armenian and Albanian are pre-sented by different manuscripts in the 10th c. Georgian manuscripts. Though one open folio enables us to think that the "Arm.2" could be written under Albanian or on top of it. At this stage, I think, the most correct conclusion is that the "Arm. 1" should be regarded to be written between the 5th and the middle of the 6th cc., that is the times before the II Dvin Council, in the epoch of accord of Georgian, Armenian and Albanian Churches. The "Arm.2" must be written at the end of the 7th and the beginning of the 8th cc. in the times of unity of Caucasian Churches on the Monothelite bases. We are facing the possibility of making a new step in Caucasian studies. A new unknown Christian world is revealing itself to us. Today, we can say that we shall soon have in hand the precise alphabet of one of the original written languages in the world; we shall have a chance of reading a literary monument or monuments of the language of a nation that has long ago been lost. This discovery will not only be valuable to any scholars of Caucasian languages but also for general linguistics. It will enable the specialists to study the literary languages dating back not later than the 8th c. And finally, this will enable us to be more unbiased when reading many more documen-tary sources on the history of Albania and to reshape ethnic origin and the history of the Albanian nation. Before concluding this paper I should like to acknowledge here my debt and my sincere thanks to His Eminence Archbishop of Sinai Damianos, Li-brarian of the St. Catherine monastery, Father Dimitrios and all the monas-tery bretheren for their never-failing support and hospitality.

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