(from the Caucasus, not to be confused with the language and
country of the same name in the Balkans). The Caucasian Albanian
language has been identified as the ancestor of the language
spoken by the Udi people, who primarily live in present-day Azerbaijan.
The alphabet dates to the 5th century A.D., possibly earlier.
It is not known for certain who created this alphabet although
Old Armenian sources suggest Mashtots (5th century).
Family: Dagestani Branch: Lezgian Group.
Discovered and Deciphered by
Zaza Aleksidze (1935- ), Historian and Director of the Institute
of Manuscripts in Tbilisi, Georgia
Where the Manuscript Was Found
|In St. Catherine's,
an Orthodox Monastery on Mt. Sinai, Egypt. The manuscripts due
to a devastating fire in 1975 in which hundreds of manuscripts
were discovered that had been stored in a forgotten basement
cell. So far two Georgian/Albanian palimpsests have been discovered,
totaling about 300 pages. (A palimpsest is a manuscript with
one or more scripts penned on top of the original text; in this
case, after the scribes had tried to scrub off the Albanian,
they wrote Georgian on top of it, leaving the Albanian barely
has 52, possibly 54, letters (graphemes). Exact number can be
determined when equipment will be available to see clearly. All
letters are written as capitals in a continuous line of text.
There are no separating spaces between words and no punctuation
at the end of sentences.
the Script Was First Seen
||1990. But the Albanian
letters were barely visible on the lower layer of two manuscripts
as scribes had attempted to scrub off the parchments in order
to reuse it for a new Georgian text.
|When the Script Was First Identified
Prior to that time, specialists in Caucasian Studies were not
even sure that a written form of the Albanian language even existed
in the form of an extended text. They least expected to find
such manuscripts in Egypt.
||2001. The word,
"Thesalonike", referencing the Biblical teachings of
Apostle Paul directed to the Christians who lived in Thessaloniki,
Greece, in the 1st century A.D.
the lower layer is an Albanian Christian Lectionary, possibly
one of the earliest, if not the very earliest Lectionary, that
exists today, judging from the simplicity of its church calendar.
This Lectionary dates to the late 4th or early 5th century A.D.
The top layer contains a Georgian Patericon, containing biographies
and writings of some of the Church Fathers. It may have been
prepared around 10th century after scribes tried to scrub off
the Albanian text.
the Caucasian Albanian Script
that the disappearance of the Albanian state and its written
script occurred over several centuries due to various political
influences in the region. First came the Arabian invasion and
the process of Islamization (7-10th centuries) followed by the
invasion of Turk-Seljuks and assimilation with them (11th century).
In addition, they believe that fundamental differences in Christian
doctrine between Armenians and Albanians dealt the final blow
to the Albanian written language. Armenians are Monophysites,
meaning that they believe that Christ had a single nature - only
God. Albanians were Diophysites, insisting on the dual nature
of Christ-both God and man.
When Armenians gained religious power over the Orthodox communities
in the region, they forced Albanians to give up their beliefs.
Albanian sacred and liturgical documents were burned or destroyed
as heresy. Consequently, the Albanian alphabet, so closely identified
with the church, disappeared from use.
How the Albanian Manuscript
at Mt. Sinai, Egypt
after the Albanians were forced to become Monophysites, some
of them left for Palestine to the St. Saba Monastery in Jerusalem.
In the 10th century, Georgian monks left St. Saba and went to
Mt. Sinai. Perhaps among them was an Albanian monk, who carried
this manuscript with him.
||Dr. Zaza Aleksidze,
Institute of Manuscripts in Tbilisi, Georgia: zaza_Alexidze@hotmail.com
or Betty Blair, Editor, Azerbaijan International Magazine in
Los Angeles: email@example.com