Living in exile in Russia since 1724, the Georgian prince and scholar Vakhushti Bagrationi (1696-1757) prepared a detailed map of Georgia and adjacent territories. These maps were subsequently transcribed into Latin letters but with Georgian geographic terms retained and published in France.
The map provides a detailed description of the region between the Black and Caspian Seas. It also offers a bit of mystery. What is now known as Mountainous Karabakh – then known to Armenians as Artsakh, Khachen and Aghvank – is identified as ‘Masisi’ and ‘Sisiani’ in the map.
Also visible is ‘Djavanchiri,’ located at the confluence of Arax and Kura rivers, it likely refers to the lands of the Jevanshir tribe that produced the three khans of Karabakh (1750-1822). The map includes ‘Karabagi,’ appropriately placed in the valley along the west bank of Kura. Only with the extension of the Karabakh Khanate into the mountainous area in the mid-18th century, would the term ‘Karabakh’ also extend into the mountains.
Today, Masis and Sis are the names Armenians use to identify the peaks of Mount Ararat. However, as historian James Russell notes Armenians have historically used ‘Masis’ to refer to various mountainous regions throughout the Armenian highland. Sisiani also recalls Sisakan, the ancient/medieval name for the present-day Syunikprovince. The present-day town of Sisian was so named only in 1940 in reference to the ancient province.
Bagrationi’s notion of Masisi’s location echoed the work by Georgian historian Leonti Mroveli, dated to the 11th century, who also treated mount Ararat and mount Masis as two distinct mountains located at considerable distance from one another.
It remains unclear if the use of Masis in reference to historic Artsakh in this map is long-forgotten history or merely a cartographic error.