From the ancient times until XX century
The people of Azerbaijan, who were able to regain their independence in a part of their historical homeland by the close of the twentieth century, own an old and rich history of the state system.
Azerbaijan is surrounded by the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the north, by Alagoz ranges in the west including Gokche-Lake and Eastern Anatolia as well, Caspian Sea in the east and Sultaniye-Zenjan-Hamadan frontiers in the south. Azerbaijan is one of the oldest spots of civilization, a country with a rich and ancient history. A rich cultural heritage has been created on its territory over the span of many millenniums, contributing to the treasure house of World culture. The people of Azerbaijan, who at present constitute the second most prominent Turkic group of the world after the Turks of Anatolia, have developed a distinctive and unique culture in this land and thereby rich traditions of statecraft and governance.
In historical perspective, the great ancestors of the present Azerbaijani people, who founded the oldest civilizations in the lands comprising Caspian-Aral Sea and the Persian Gulf regions, inhabited the territories of Azerbaijan. The old ethnic groups of this region contributing to the emergence of the Azerbaijani people led to the formation of the ancient cultural environment and Sumerian-Babylonian civilization and played a very important role in the history of ancient state system and politic-military life in the regions of the Middle and Near East. The main traces of civilization are viewed in Azerbaijan. This is evidently displayed by the scholarly researches, especially by the archeological excavations within and outside Azerbaijan. The ancient monuments spread all over Azerbaijan amply prove that this land was one of the oldest habitations of the mankind. The discovery of Azykh cave, one of the earliest habitations of man to be found in the world, and a number of other habitations of the ancient Stone Age prove that Azerbaijan enters the zone of anthropoids to reveal the birthplace of humankind. The archeological discoveries at the caves of Qazma (Nakhichevan), Azykh, Taghs, Damjili, Dashsalahli as well as in the monuments found elsewhere in the country pertaining to 300-400 millennia BC, together with the unearthing of the remains of lower jaw bone of the first Homo sapiens in Azerbaijan conclusively ascertain the evolution theory as to how the human formation had taken place. In view of these rare discoveries, the Azerbaijan territory has been included in the map of Europe's oldest inhabitants.
Azerbaijan is one of the rare countries that can be called the cradle of humanity in the true sense of word. As it is evident from the discoveries made at the grotto of Azykh, life began very early here. The excavations carried out at this primeval cave prove that Azerbaijan was a habitat to the oldest primitive human beings. The pictures and petrographic inscriptions engraved on the rocks of Qobustan and Gemiqaya as well as the artifacts of the material culture belonging to Kur-Araz and Khojaly and the findings at Kurqan demonstrate that even thousands of years before the Christian era, Azerbaijan possessed a highly developed culture and advanced civilization.
Azerbaijan has been one of the oldest habitations of humankind since the primordial Paleolithic age. The people of Azerbaijan had started breeding an elaborate ancient culture from that time. Becoming property owners in the course of the Mesolithic and Neolithic ages, they started cultivating a settled life, tilling soil and engaging themselves in different trades and handicrafts. The spheres of economic and cultural development in the territories of Azerbaijan gradually expanded towards the end of the 4th and the beginning of 3rd millennia BC, which led to the formation and spread of Kur-Araz culture in different regions of North and South Caucasus as well as in Eastern Anatolia. Archaeological excavations carried out in this region resulted in the discovery of rich specimens of culture, especially grain residues, plowing instruments, welfare related equipments and various types of handicrafts. All these discoveries attest the fact that the Azerbaijani people were the creators of one of the oldest sedentary civilizations of the world.
The people of Azerbaijan possess a rich history of statehood, which extends over approximately 5000 years. The people of Azerbaijan had started establishing the oldest traditions of state governance system since ancient times. The state organizations, more precisely the ethno-political unification of the separate units in the Azerbaijani territories first appeared in the Urmiya basin at the end of 4th millennium and beginning of 3rd millennium before our era. It was there that all the oldest Azerbaijan states were formed. These states played an essential role in the politic-military history of the entire region. Azerbaijan had a close interaction with the ancient imperial states of Sumer, Akkad and Assyria, which were established in the Euphrates and Tigris valleys as well as, the Hittites state of the Asia Minor.
The early states of Azerbaijan safeguarded their territories from external aggression by pursuing a vigorous foreign policy. The Kutis, who composed one of the main tribal kindred unions in ancient Azerbaijan, had defeated even the powerful neighboring kingdom of Akkad and thereby, expanded the frontiers of their rule up to the Persian Gulf for over a hundred years' time. Along with benefiting greatly from the highly developed administrative skills of the conquered states of Akkad and Sumer, the Kutis had also implanted the emergent governmental system of the ancient Azerbaijan in the territories of the countries under their subjugation.
The Kutis and Lullubian confederacies initially started their rule from the vicinity of Lake Urmia. At times, their state included the valleys of Euphrates and Tigris right up to the Persian Gulf, which left its deep imprints not only on Azerbaijan but, generally speaking, on the entire history of the state system in the ancient East. A distinguishing feature of the Kutis which differentiated them from the other neighboring states of the ancient Orient was the method of the selection of their rulers. The succession was hereditary. The Kuti rulers ruled their country through kinship of successors. The heirs to the throne enjoyed a vast degree of independence in administrative matters. This system had its impact on their long rule in ancient Azerbaijan over a vast stretch of land extending to the valleys of Euphrates and Tigris right up to the Persian Gulf.
With the passage of time, the state culture of Azerbaijan attained new heights as new states encompassing vast territories emerged on its soil. In the 1st millennium BC, the powerful states of Albania and Atropatena as well as kingdoms of Manna and Skit were established in the territories of Azerbaijan. These states played a vital role in unification of the people and strengthening of the administrative governance system in Azerbaijan as well as enhancement of the economic-cultural and ethno-political life.
The Manna State which emerged in the 1st millennium BC was a continuation of the traditional state system of Azerbaijan and represented an important phase in the administrative history of the country. Initially founded in the territories around the Urmiya Lake, the Azerbaijani state of Manna occupied a significant place in the history of the whole world in terms of its administrative governance system, not only because of its antiquity but also due to its evolved form as a state. The state of Manna unified all the petty states adjacent to Urmiya Lake under its rule. By this means, the territories of Azerbaijan controlled by the state of Manna extended up to the Araxes (Araz) River (sometimes even beyond that) in the North and up to the Caspian Sea in the North East.
The state of Manna was deeply involved in warfare as well as in political events affecting the entire region. It waged successful wars against the powerful neighboring states of Assyria and Urartu, which were trying to seize the territories of Azerbaijan. The Sumerians and the Skit tribes who had by then settled in Azerbaijan, joined hands with the people of Manna in fighting the Assyrian and Urartuan aggression.
The absolute leadership of Manna was regulated on hereditary basis. Nevertheless, the country was administered with the help of the Council of Elders, which was evidently of an advisory nature in the old administrative setup of the state.
The fact that the state of Manna withstood the repeated attacks of powerful neighbors in the southern region of Azerbaijan for almost 300 years corroborates the existence of strong traditions of state governance system in Azerbaijan right from the earliest times.
By the end of the 8th century BC and beginning of the 7th century BC, Saks and Massagets, who had a close kinship to Cimmerians and Skits, began to play an important role in the politic-military history of Azerbaijan. The Saks and Massagets were old inhabitants of Eurasia, who moved in family groups from the foothills of Greater Caucasus during the various periods of history to the south through passes of Greater Caucasus and the Derbent route. They first established themselves in the northern parts of Azerbaijan and later moved from there directly to the lands of Manna and spread to the eastern Anatolia.
The composition of the Cimmerian-Skit-Saks society had its roots in different ethnic stocks. Turkic ethnic groups were in dominance among these unions, which had originated the Cimmerian-Skit-Saks society. The personal observations of the Father of History, Herodotus (5th century BC), fully substantiate the veracity of this information. According to the writings of Herodotus, the Skits used to feed themselves with the milk of horses while the Massagets who held a kinship with the Skits, dressed in the same manner and led their lives in a similar way. They worshipped Sun as their only God and offered the most beautiful living creature on earth- the horse-as a sacrifice to the God of Sun. As successors to the Mannaeans, the Skits founded a powerful kingdom in the northern parts of Azerbaijan and contributed to the process of unifying all the people of Azerbaijan in one land. The Skit — Massaget rulers successfully defended the territories of Azerbaijan from the invasion of foreign occupiers.
The kingdom of Massagets inflicted a heavy defeat upon the majestic Akhemenids dynasty of Iran — one of the strongest imperialist powers of all times. The Akhemenid ruler Cyrus II, who had conquered vast lands in the regions of the Middle and Near East, was in possession of the southern territories of Azerbaijan as well. Thereafter, he revealed his intention to occupy north of the country too. In addition, for this purpose he proposed his marriage to queen Tomiris, the widow of the King of Massagets. However, queen Tomirus, being well aware of his cunningness, refused the offer of the Iranian ruler. In doing so, she kept the honor and independence of her country. She went to war after vowing in the name of the God of Sun and routed the unbeatable troops of her powerful neighbor in 530 BC. The "invincible" Cyrus was also killed on the battlefield. The abject defeat of Cyrus II formed a brilliant chapter in the history of Azerbaijan. Tomiris had bravely vanquished Cyrus II, the grand emperor who had won the title of Cyrus the Great for having destroyed powerful states like those of the Midian Empire, Lydia and Babylonia, annexed Parthian territories, and extended his empire from Central Asia to the borders of Egypt.
The contacts between the Azerbaijani and Skit culture which had spread over large area of Eurasia during the rule of the Skit kings, created mutually beneficial conditions for interaction between the two. This led to a new prosperity in the evolution of the old culture of Azerbaijan. The artifacts of material culture discovered as a result of the archeological excavations and preservation of old names at various places of Azerbaijan dating back to the Skit-Saks-Massagets period plainly bear this out.
Despite the extremely complex politic-military situation in the Middle and Near East and artful contrivances of the neighboring countries to seize Azerbaijan due to its very important military-strategic location and rich natural reserves, the ancient statehood traditions of Azerbaijan were carried on. Neither the long- lasting repressive regime of the imperial Iranian-Akhemenids dynasty, nor the ruinous invasions of Alexander could the Great annihilate the established state system in Azerbaijan.
Following the decease of Alexander the Great, the old statehood traditions were revivified in Azerbaijan. The historical territories of Azerbaijan were incorporated into the states of Atropatena and Albania in the southern and northern regions of the country respectively.
As mentioned above, the state of Atropatena covered the southern regions of Azerbaijan. In fact, this part of Azerbaijan had seen the revival of the independent statehood long before the invasion of Alexander the Great. Together with the lands of the vanquished state of Midia, the territories of the South Azerbaijan were delivered to the authority of the Akhemenidian governor, Atropat who was governing South Azerbaijan independently even during the rule of the Akhemenids. That's why South Azerbaijan was mostly referred to as Midian Atropatena, Midia Minor, Atropat's Midia, Atropatia or Atropatena.
As a foresighted politician and renowned warrior, Atropat was appointed to command the front troops of the Akhemenids king, Dara III, to fight the invasion of Alexander the Great. These troops were mainly composed of the military units involving the soldiers recruited from the northern and southern parts of Azerbaijan. Although Alexander the Great overcame the military forces of Dara III, he reconsidered invading Azerbaijan since he was well aware of the competence and politic-military influence of Atropat as an intrepid warrior and deemed it wiser to get closer to the governor of Azerbaijan instead of occupying it. Later on, this affinity was further deepened by the kinship as Atropat got affiliated with one of the associates of Alexander the Great through marriage. By this means, Atropat converted Atropatena to the first independent state of the East released from the Greek-Macedonian enslavement.
Resurgence of the independent statehood traditions resulted in the economic and cultural revitalization of the southern regions of Azerbaijan. The powerful state of Atropatena had developed close bilateral trade relations with the countries of Caucasus, Middle Asia, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Volga river basin etc. Atropatena was the main determining power in the international relations of the whole region.
The mutual interaction and correspondence between the Greek civilization and Eastern culture had a shaping effect on the enhancement of the state governance system in Atropatena. The wide use of the Greek language brought about the improvement and perfection of the judiciary structure as well as other fields of society. The monetary system of the country had advanced too. It played a central role in the internal trade.
Deriving its roots from the ancient statehood traditions of Azerbaijan and state systems of the early Greek and Eastern civilizations, the authority and influence of Atropatena was further strengthened by the following rulers. Thus, Atropatena firmly withstood the invasions of the states of Parthia and Selefki and crushed the military forces of the Roman Empire with the help of the subject Parthian forces. The army of Atropatena was considered to be one of the best equipped and powerful military forces of the entire region. In order to surmount the military forces of the Roman Empire, Atropatena had mobilized 40 thousand infantrymen and 10 thousand combat forces.
The following years saw the emergence of close relationship between the Roman Empire and Atropatena. The Roman Empire was giving a special weight to Atropatena in its foreign policy regarding the Eastern countries due to the politic-military influence and strategic location of Atropatena. The delegates of Atropatena had paid numerous visits to Roma in order to hold diplomatic negotiations with the emperor Octavian August during the years of 27-14 BC. The emperor had even entrusted the governance of the neighboring Armenian kingdom to the rulers of Atropatena. This was the reason why the Armenian tsars were cautious not to spoil the relations with Atropatena. Wary of the politic-military dominance of Atropatena, the Armenian tsar Tigran had married his daughter with the ruler of Atropatena, Midridat as a safety measure. Later on, the Armenian kingdom was brought under the full dependency and control of Atropatena.
The state of Albania that was created in the northern part of Azerbaijan encompassed the territories starting from the high lands surrounding the Iori and Alazan rivers and stretching over to the Caspian Sea in the east, from Greater Caucasus Mountains to the Araxes (Araz) River in the south and basin of the Gokhche Lake in the west. Initially the capital of Albania was Kabala, but later on it was transferred to Barda.
During the rule of the Albanian state, North Azerbaijan saw the further growth of both the material and spiritual cultural expansion in its territories. At this period, more than 30 cities in the country were considered important trade and business centers. New schools were opened and new Azerbaijani script was introduced which was called an Albanian alphabet.
As a country situated at the intersection of North and South, connecting East with West, Albania was a convergence point of different ethnic groups, religions and cultures. It was namely because of this factor that the rich civilization formed in Albania had a very unique and exceptional makeup characterizing the distinctive features and qualities of diverse cultures. The Turkic ethnos who were outnumbering the other groups had a vital role in the administration and management of the country. They were worshipping the Moon, Sky, Sun and God to whom they referred as Tanri which signified oneness of God. Along with this, Christian tenets were also freely disseminated in the country. It's noteworthy that the independent Albanian church had direct liability before the Roman Empire.
During the reign of the Albanian state, the state governance culture of Azerbaijan had reached to new heights. The rulers of the state were considered both the secular and religious leaders of the country who were also entitled to issue orders, formulate laws and command the military forces. By that time, the number of the military forces of Albania had already surpassed 80 thousand.
There was an Advisory Council functioning at the palace of the Albanian rulers. The Albanian rulers were supposed to head the Advisory Council and religious gatherings, which were held to regulate the governance of the country. Like Atropatena, Albania had also developed its own monetary system. Possessing the powerful state structures and necessary military power to safeguard its territories from foreign invasion, Albania had resolutely withstood the constant attacks of Parthia and Roman Empire. Having suffered overwhelmingly heavy defeats by the Albanian warriors repeatedly, the Roman Empire had been forced to come to terms with the politic-military potential of Albania. That is why later on the Roman Empire had established close bilateral ties with Albania as a more prudent way of dealing with its formidable rival. Like the diplomats of Atropatena, Albanian delegates were frequently sent to Roma to hold talks with Octavian August. Along with the Roman Empire, Albania had also fostered close trade relations and political ties with the other countries. Inter-state trade routes that linked the Middle and Near Eastern countries and the Khazar Khanate with Eastern Europe passed through Albania which contributed a lot to the external trade relations of the country.
The Albanian ruler, Javanshir ably defended his country against the ferocious attacks of its opportunistic and expansionist neighbors such as the empires of Byzantine, Sasanids, Arab Caliphate and Khazar Khanate. Despite the military dominance of these powers over Albania, he had been able to maintain and uphold the independence of his country due to his farsighted, sagacious vision as well as immense aptitude and valor as a warrior.
At the beginning of our era, Azerbaijan faced one of the most turbulent periods of its history. It was occupied by the Sassanid Empire of Iran in the 3rd century and by the Arab Caliphate in the 7th century AD. The occupation by Iran and Arabia brought a large number of migrants from the interior of those two countries who were settled in Azerbaijan. These migrants were settled in militarily important strategic locations as well as on the highly productive lands of the country. They were given countless privileges. These foreigners started to pursue a policy of assimilation and extermination of the native population of Azerbaijan. However, despite the cruelties and excesses committed by the Iranians and Arab occupiers for a period of more than 600 years, the old Azerbaijani traditions of the state governance system could not be eradicated. Despite the insufferable agonies at the hands of exploitive regimes and ensuing tough conditions, the integration and amalgamation of the people into one united association continued in Azerbaijan.
Nonetheless, the strategies worked out by the occupying powers to wipe out the native population by way of assimilation and absorption backfired. In reality, the fact that the people of Azerbaijan remained under the rule of those empires for a very long period in an integrated and undivided form actually resulted in establishment of the interregional links within the entire country, which eventually led to the expansion of internal trade. Growth of internal trade accelerated the ethnic, political and cultural unification between the northern, southern, eastern and western regions of Azerbaijan. In fact, the prolonged common struggle for independence against the aggressive Iranian and Arab forces brought the Turkic and non-Turkic inhabitants of Azerbaijan closer to each other and helped them intermingle with each other. This, in turn expedited the process of unification and coalescence of the diverse ethnic groups into a single united nation.
Constituting majority of the population in the first centuries of our era, the Turkic ethnic groups who were stronger and more organized from the politic-military point of view played an essential role in unification of the masses in Azerbaijan. Amongst the ethnic Turkic tribes, the Oghuz Turks were the most powerful and influential. Initially, like other Turkic tribes the Oghuz groups had also moved to the Southern Caucasus, which had been a part of their early dwelling place since ancient times. Later on, they shifted from there to the territories of Azerbaijan through the Derbent passageway, called by their ancient forebears as "Iron Gate". Many of them crossed different other passes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain and spread all over the Azerbaijani lands. (One of these passes located in the Qakh District of the Republic of Azerbaijan is still called by the local people as the "Hun Beli" which means "Hun waist" signifying migration of the Hun Turks through this passage.) This fact is demonstrated by the information gleaned from the earliest sources about the Mausoleum of the Oghuz saint Dede Qorqud at Derbent and one of the gates of Derbent named after him as Bayat Gate ("Bayat" is a name of one of the Oghuz tribes). Including the Oghuz Turks, the early Turks who had abided in vast Eurasian lands were trying to keep the important pass of Iron Gate in their hands, as it was the main connecting route linking the northern regions of the Turkic habitations with the southern parts, that's to say the Qipchak Steppe with the Southern Caucasus planes.
In addition to the other early sources, the facts presented in the Book of Oghuz named as "Kibabi-Diyarbekriyye" written by Abubakr Al-Tehrani Al-Isfahani on the order of the most prevailing ruler of the Agh Goyunlu Empire Uzun Hasan (1453-1478) prove that as the ancestors of the present Azerbaijani people the Oghuz Turks, the Agh Goyunlu and Qara Goyunlu tribes were the oldest inhabitants of the entire Southern Caucasus and Inner Asia. Having conducted thorough researches on the pedigree of Gara Yuluk Osman Bek, the founder of Agh Goyunlu state and grandfather of Uzun Hasan, the abovementioned author had concluded that the begetter of this lineage goes back to the Oghuz (Khaqan) emperor. The book recounts the territories composing the powerful Turkic state headed by Oghuz Khaqan, the ancestor of all Turks. The book also narrates that the said Oghuz emperor died near the Gokche Lake. The fact that Azerbaijan was a constituent part of the powerful state headed by the great Oghuz emperor and his death occurred in the vicinity of Gokche Lake verifies that the territories of Azerbaijan had been one of the oldest habitants of the Oghuz Turks.
The author of Kitabi-Diyarbakriyye further writes "the grandson of the Oghuz emperor Bayandir used to spend his life in winter huts of Karabakh and in summer houses around Gokche Lake. It was there that he summoned the great assembly and divided his great empire amongst his sons according to their capabilities. After this he responded to the call of Allah and breathed his last there". According to Abubakr Al-Tehrani Al-Isfahani, Sungur Bek who was the 20th great-great grandfather of Gara-Yuluk Osman, was a contemporary of the prophet Mohammad as well. He had waged a fierce war against the blasphemers on the frontiers around the summer pastures of the Alagoz Mountains and Gokche Lake and perished in one of the skirmishes. Qara-Yuluk Osman Bek's 14th inline predecessor, Shektur Khan and a contemporary of Caliph Haroon Ar-Rashid, Gipchak Khan had also fought against the infidels with great bravery for the release of Alinja Fort. They both had inflicted heavy defeats on the enemies and liberated the Alinja Fort from long drawn-out besiegement.
These facts are in complete consonance with the narrations related in the Book of Dede Qorqud about the Oghuz tribes. The consistency of these facts with the events which took place during the rule of the prophet Mohammad and Arab Caliphate not only prove the veracity of the abovementioned happenings, but also reaffirm the fact that the people of Azerbaijan had managed to preserve their strong independent statehood traditions despite having been subjected to the subordination of the superior powers.
Unlike other nationalities and ethnic groups, the Turkic tribes who constituted majority of the population in the country were spread all over the territories of Azerbaijan from north to south. That is why since the very beginning of the first centuries of our era, the Turkish Language became the principal medium of social intercourse between the non-Turkic minority communities and other ethnic groups as well. The Turkish Language played a key role in development of the interrelationships between the northern and southern parts of the country and, thereby, ensured integration of the entire country. Over a period, this factor played a very important role in the process of unification of the masses in Azerbaijan. It happened so, because during the period under discussion there was no concept of a united monotheist religion for the whole country to embrace. Till that time, worshipping of Tanri, the principal God of the ancient Turks which was the main concept of divinity in the country, had not squeezed out other religious notions prevalent in the land, nor had it been able to completely eradicate them. Zoroastrianism, worshipping of Fire, Sun, Moon, Sky, Stars, Land and Water were still in vogue at that time. In the northern regions of the country though, especially in the mountainous western parts of the Albanian territory Christianity was spreading at a fast rate. The Albanian independent church was in a vigorous and strong rivalry with the neighboring Armenian and Georgian Churches.
Under these composite historical circumstances, it was specifically the powerful Turkic ethnic groups, the leading politic-military power of the entire region who had become the main bearers of the statehood traditions of Azerbaijan. The Turkic ethnic groups played an enormous role in protection and preservation of the independent state system in Azerbaijan. They were the corner stone of the state governance system in Azerbaijan. Indeed, at a time when there was a lack of united religious belief in one Allah, only Turkic ethnicity and Turkish language played a unifying role in the north and south as well as in the entire length and breath of the country.
Azerbaijan after advent of Islam
The advent of Islam in 7th century was a decisive turning point in the history of Azerbaijan. The religion of Islam gave strong impetus to the creation of a single nation with a single language in Azerbaijan. Acceptance of Islam had a significant impact on acceleration of the unification of the masses in the country. Thus, it became a cause for the establishment of religious unity among the Turkic and non-Turkic ethnic groups and a single common tradition on the Azerbaijani lands where they were spread, as well as expansion of the neighborhood relations, and further deepening of the process of intermingling. The religion of Islam united all Turkic and non-Turkic ethnic groups under one Turkish-Islamic flag, against the Byzantine Empire and its Armenian and Georgian feudal supporters, who were trying to bring the whole region of South Caucasus under the influence of Christianity. Since it was against the Islamic principles to convert monotheists to Muslims, the Albanian Christians remained away from the influence of the Islamic religion during the period of Arab invasion. Therefore, the country was divided religiously. The Turkish-Muslim population including Albanians who had accepted Islam was in majority. They were scattered throughout the entire country, whereas the minority Christian population including Albanians who had not accepted Islam was confined to the western regions of the Northern Azerbaijan. The struggle by the Armenian and Georgian churches to bring the Christian-Albanians dwelling in the western parts of Albania into the sphere of their own religious-political and ethnic influence gained momentum due to the religious differences in the country. So, Azerbaijan was converted into the fierce battleground of confrontation between the religions of Islam and Christianity. With the passage of time, the Grigorianization and Armenianization of the Christian-Albanian population of the Western Azerbaijan including mountainous region of Karabagh gathered more speed. Moreover, the Georgian church was also striving to subordinate the Christian-Albanian population living in the northwestern regions of Azerbaijan.
The existence of religious divisions in Albania incited the Armenian and Georgian feudal to start making territorial claims against Azerbaijan. The politic plans of the insidious neighbors of Albania consisted of putting the Christian Albanians under the religious-political and ethnic sway of the Armenian and Georgian churches and achieving their full Armenization and Georgianization which would eventually lead to the complete usurpation of the territories of Azerbaijan.
After the fall of the Arab Caliphate in the middle of 9th century, the ancient statehood traditions of Azerbaijan were revivified once again. The country saw a new political renascence as the dynasties of Sajids, Shirvanshahs, Salaries, Ravvadids and Shaddadis began to reign in the territories of Azerbaijan.
During the period under discussion, Shekhi State came into existence in the north-western regions of Azerbaijan which encompassed the territories stretching over till Tiflis, the border city of Islam. To the west of Shekhi there was another Muslim State- Tiflis Muslim Kingdom with Tiflis as its capital. Acting as heirs of the Albanian State, the Shekhi rulers used to carry the titles of the Albanian rulers as well. Unlike other dynasties ruling in Azerbaijan, the territory of the Shekhi State was transformed into the area of swear conflict between Christianity and Islam. Along with Christianity, the religion of Islam had also started penetrating into the territories of this Azerbaijani state with its influence expanding by the passage of time. Despite the very complex conditions, the Shekhi rulers were fearlessly fighting the invasive attacks of the Georgian feudal aimed at Georgianization of the Albanian Christians. They were also ably defending the northwestern frontiers of Azerbaijan from foreign occupation.
Due to the establishment of independent states in the territories of Azerbaijan, all areas of life were revitalized politically, economically and culturally. That has to say, the "Renaissance age" of the history of Azerbaijan had taken a real start.
The decline of the Arab Caliphate and awakening of the old statehood traditions of Azerbaijan stimulated the use of the Turkish Language as the main means of communication throughout the whole country. This was a historical achievement, which would give great impetus to the development of Azerbaijan in future. Establishment of a single Azerbaijani Turkish state incorporating all the territories of Azerbaijan in the form of Sajids State which lasted from the late 70's of IX century till the middle of the century (879-941), had a very positive effect in deepening of the economical and cultural relations, eradication of ethnic differences and further acceleration of the formation of a single Azerbaijani Turkish nation in the country.
During its most prolific era, the territories of the Sajids State were extended on a vast region from Zanjan to Derbent, starting from the shores of the Caspian Sea and stretching over to the cities of Ani and Debil. All the territories of Azerbaijan were included in the domain of the Sajids State. Sajids repeatedly defeated the Armenian and Georgian feudal, who were backed and supported by the Byzantine Empire. These victories played an important role in preservation of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and strengthening of the ethnic-political unity in the country. It was namely in this period that the stories of the Book of Dede Qorqud, which is considered to be the master piece of the Azerbaijani and broad Turkish literature were spread throughout the entire country.
Thus, creation of the local dynasties (Sajids, Shirvanshahs, Salarids, Ravvadids, Shaddadis, Shekhi rulers) in Azerbaijan after 600 years long enslavement under the Sassanids and Arabian rule and establishment of the monotheist religion of Islam throughout the entire country played a fundamental role in the ethnic evolution of the Azerbaijani nation and formation of a common language and culture.
At a time when different feudal dynasties were frequently substituting one another, the religion of Islam played a vital role in association of the Azerbaijani population and alliance of the non-Turkic tribes with the Turkic ethnic groups in the form of a single force against the foreign invaders. It was because of this reason that the machinations of the United Christian Block comprising the Armenian, Georgian and Byzantine aggressors to invade the territories of Azerbaijan could never be materialized. Even the Slavic Russian interventionists attacking the country persistently from over the Caspian Sea could not get hold of Azerbaijan. The necessity to get united against the common adversaries and intermingling, neighborhood, common traditions and integrated culture bought about by the single religion of Islam gave way to the cohesive society and further strengthened the ethnic-political unity in the country.
Nevertheless, since none of the Azerbaijani states established after the downfall of the Arab Caliphate managed to endure as a single, consistent and powerful state encircling all the territories of Azerbaijan, the long- lasting political stability could also not be created. At that time, taking advantage of the disintegration of the Arab Caliphate the United Christian Block comprising the Byzantine Empire, Armenian and Georgian feudal formed a united front against Islam and diverted all of its power against Azerbaijan. It was precisely at this period, towards the middle of XI century that formation of the Great Seljuk Empire made the major turning point in the history of the Middle and Near East. The lands ruled by the Great Seljuk Empire extended over a wide area from Central Asia to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and from Derbent passage to the shores of Persian Gulf. Azerbaijan was once again incorporated into the Oghuz Turk state, the Great Seljuk Empire.
The Great Seljuk Empire played a crucial role in the history of Azerbaijan. Sultan Alp Arslan routed the military forces of the Byzantine Empire in the battle of Malazgert. (26th August 1071) By defeating the Byzantine forces, the Turkish-Islam unity had actually won a decisive victory over the Armenian and Georgian members of the United Christian Block who had been long conspiring to take over the territories of Azerbaijan. Thus, the plans of the Byzantine Empire to reinforce its positions in the Southern Caucasian region and artful devices of the aggressive Armenian and Georgian feudal to get possession of the western territories of Azerbaijan through the assistance of the Byzantine Empire proved to be fruitless in the end.
In this way the plots to subdue the Southern Caucasian region and bring Azerbaijan under the influence and control of Christianity remained unrealized. That is to say, the Christianity factor utterly failed in the region of South Caucasus.
As a result of the influx of the Seljuk tribes, the Oghuz Turks or notion of Turkism turned into the key ethnic-political factor in all the regions of Southern Caucasus and Asia Minor. The Turkish-Islam factor played a decisive role in the history of the Middle and Near East, as well as Caucasus for a long period of time.
During the period of the Seljuk influx different communities of Oghuz Turks settled in Azerbaijan. Oghuz-Seljuk Turks and Azerbaijani Turks who shared the same origin and religion intermingled with each other within a short span of time.
The communities such as Skit, Sak, Massaget, Hun, Bulgar, Khazar, Barsil, Pecheneq, Suvar, and some other Turkic and non-Turkic ethnic groups had participated in the formation of the Azerbaijani nation at different periods of history. (BC and AC) But it was mainly the Oghuz Turks (Qaraqoyunlus, Aqqoyunlus, Seljuks and others) who had played a decisive role in the formation of the united Azerbaijani nation. Therefore, by the arrival of the Seljuk Turks, the unification of the Azerbaijani people as a single nation came to an end. The Azerbaijani Turkish language became the main source of communication in the Southern Caucasian including the territories of Azerbaijan. As a simple and intelligible language, by replacing the Arabic and Persian languages and different undeveloped local languages used in small circles, the Azerbaijani Turkish language became the general language throughout the whole country. The Verbal Folk literature and recitals narrated and spread verbally by the folk artists referred to as Ozans or Ashiks who were living in tribes and moving from one place to the other like nomads, paved the way for creation of the masterpieces in written literature of the Azerbaijani Turkish Language within a short period.
Having been strengthened after the breakdown of the Great Seljuk Empire, the states of the Shirvanshah and Eldenizs dynasties played an enormous role in continuation and further reinforcement of the statehood traditions of the Azerbaijani people. Especially Eldenizs state of Azerbaijan, which had become the most powerful and influential state of the Middle and Near East, played a pivotal role in the ethnic-political history of the Azerbaijani nation.
Unification of all the territories of Azerbaijan in the form of a single state during the rule of Eldenizs resulted in the great enhancement of the economical, political and cultural life in the country. Production, trade, education and culture also developed more. Internal and external trade relations grew largely. New educational institutions were opened; mosques and unique architectural monuments were constructed. The cultural Renaissance had been reached to new heights because of the prominent literary figures such as Khaqani, Nizami, Ajami. The magnificent statesmen such as Shemseddin Eldeniz, Mahammad Jahan Pahlavan and Gizil Arslan wrote golden pages of the state management system of Azerbaijan. During the rule of Eldenizs, the domain of the Azerbaijani Turkish Language and culture of the Azerbaijani Turks expanded as well.
Therefore, following the decline of the Arabs Caliphate, from the middle of the IX century the weight of the Turkish-Islam states increased not only in Caucasus, but also in the Middle and Near East as well. The states administered by Sajids, Shirvanshahs, Salaris, Ravvadis, Sheddads, Sheki rulers, Seljuks, Eldenizs, Mongolians, Elkhanis-Hulakus, Chobans, Jalayirs, Teimuris, Osmans, Gara Goyunlu, Agh Goyunlu, Sefevids, Afshars, Qajars and other Turkish-Muslim dynasties left lasting impressions not only on the history of Azerbaijan, but also all over the Southern Caucasian region as well as the statehood traditions of the Middle and Near Eastern countries. For a long time Azerbaijan remained the central province of these states, with Tabriz as its capital. Most of these great Turkish- Muslim empires were administered by the Azerbaijani-Turkish dynasties.
During and after the period of XV-XVIII centuries the statehood culture of Azerbaijan was further enriched. It is noteworthy that the grand empires of Gara Goyunlu, Agh Goyunlu, Sefevids, Afshars and Qajars encompassing vast territories were under direct administration of the Azerbaijani dynasties. This significant factor had a positive effect on the internal and international affairs of Azerbaijan. It contributed a lot to the growth of the military-political influence of the country and expansion of the use of the Azerbaijani Language; and created a suitable atmosphere for further development of the material and spiritual culture of the Azerbaijani nation. Along with playing a central role in the international relations and military-political life of the Middle and Near East, the Azerbaijani states actively participated in the European- Eastern relations as well.
During the rule of the great statesman of Azerbaijan, Uzun Hasan (1468-1478) the Agh Goyunlu Empire became the most potent military-political factor throughout the entire region of the Middle and Near East. At this period, the statehood culture of Azerbaijan was promoted more through the measures taken by Uzun Hasan. He carried out the well-thought-out policies aimed at the creation of the independent Azerbaijani state with a powerful central government incorporating all the territories of the country. For this purpose he had ordered preparation of the special "Code of Law" wherein the regulations and laws formulated to rule the country were enshrined.
In order to achieve an upsurge in the economical power of the country, as a foresighted statesman, Uzun Hasan was trying to improve the life conditions of the people who were paying taxes to the state treasury and boost different spheres of the sedentary lifestyle in the country. In view of that he had passed special laws to end the tyranny of the government officials and bridle the military-political supremacy of the tribal leaders.
Uzun Hasan had anticipated the rise of religious divisions in the country in beforehand. In order to thwart the destructive effect of the religious differences on the strength and ethnic-political unity of the country, he had married his sister with Sheikh Juneyt Sefevid, and his daughter with Sheikh Heydar Sefevid. By doing so, he was trying to establish peace among the Agh Goyunlu and Safavids, and tackle the threatening hazards of religious partition which had enveloped the whole country. Keeping a watchful eye on the changes taking place in the military world, as a capable commander Uzun Hasan was making every effort to form an army with strong discipline and order. To this end, he had amplified the number of the mercenary infantry divisions in the army and had made arrangements for production of the fire-arms and establishment of strong artillery. He had even invited Italian armor experts and military specialists to help expedite an army-building process in the country.
The glorious statesman also paid a special attention towards the development of education in the country. He had collected the most advanced scholars of his period into his own palace. Nearly 60 scholars used to work in the personal library of Uzun Hasan. An academic committee composed of remarkable scholars of that period used to function at the palace of Uzun Hasan. Great ruler got Quran-e-Kerim translated into Azerbaijani language. The outstanding academician of that period, Abubakr Al-Tehrani had written a book named Kitab-i-Diyarbakriyye (Book of Diyarbakir) about Oghuz tribes on the order of Uzun Hasan.
During the rule of Uzun Hasan, the credence of Azerbaijan in the relations between the Eastern and Western world had also augmented. In addition to the Eastern countries with which Azerbaijan had close relationship traditionally, vast diplomatic ties were established with the European states as well. During the reign of Uzun Hasan the Azerbaijani envoys had held several diplomatic meetings and negotiations at the palaces of the rulers of many neighboring Eastern countries as well as different European countries such as Republic of Venice, Papacy, Kingdom of Naples, Albania, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Kingdom of Burgundy, Cyprus, Rodeos, Trabzon Empire, and Great Russian Kingdom. The mother of Uzun Hasan, Sara Khatun, the first lady diplomat in the Eastern world played an important role in the meetings conducted with the foreign countries. There was a permanent embassy of the Republic of Venice in Tabriz at the palace of Uzun Hasan. Azerbaijan was converted to the country of high influence in resolution of the international issues concerning both the East and West.
Towards the end of XV century and beginning of XVI century the statehood of Azerbaijan entered into a complete new phase of its history. The distinguished statesman, Shah Ismail Khatai (1501-1524) who was the descendant of Uzun Hasan, took the task of his father to himself and united all the territories of Azerbaijan under his own state power. Thus, Safavids State, the first united and centralized Azerbaijani state came into existence with Tabriz as its capital.
During the time of Sefevids authority, the administrative state culture of Azerbaijan was further elevated. Azerbaijani language was declared the state language. Due the constructive reforms, internal and foreign politicies carried out by Shah Ismail, Shah Tahmasib, Shah Abbas and other Sefevid rulers, Sefevids State became one of the most powerful and influential empires of the Middle and Near East on the whole.
In order to run the vast territories of the Sefevids Empire, an inclusive state administration mechanism was formed. Sefevids rulers had seized the religious authority along with secular leadership of the country. There was a Supreme Consultation Assembly or Supreme Council of Kingdom at the palace of the rulers. In order to regulate and organize the work of the central and local authority organs, a full-fledged bureaucratic system was established in the country. All the judicial matters of the country were looked after by Supreme Law Court. As a result of the extensive reforms implemented by Sefevid rulers, especially the reforms carried out by Shah Abbas, the Sefevids State had become one of the most powerful military powers of the world due to its disciplined strong army. During the years of Sefevids sway, the use of Azerbaijani language escalated widely in the regions of the Middle and Near East. As a rule, the diplomatic negotiations and meetings held with the envoys of the foreign countries at the Sefevids palace were all conducted in the Azerbaijani language. Carrying on the same pattern of foreign policy as Aqqoyunlus, the Sefevids State had close diplomatic ties with many countries starting from the littoral states of the Black Sea and extending over to the other European states up to England and Scandinavia. Many Western emissaries used to visit the palaces of Shah Ismail Khatai, Shah Tahmasib, Shah Muhammad Khudabanda, Shah Abbas and other Safevid rulers in order to foster strong mutual relations with the Sefevis states. Azerbaijan continued to play an imperative role in the mutual relations between East and West, during the rule of Sefevids State as well.
The magnificent Azerbaijani warrior, Nadir Shah Afshar (1736-1747) who came to power after the downfall of the Sefevids State, further expanded the boundaries of the former Sefevid Empire. In the year of 1739, this grand Afshar-Turk ruler of Azerbaijan conquered Delhi and got hold of the Northern regions of India as well. But, the plans of the Azerbaijani ruler to establish a powerful centralized state on the subjugated territories proved futile due to the increasing internal problems.
After the death of Nadir Shah, his gigantic empire collapsed. Even when Nadir Shah was alive the process of disintegration had taken a start. Following the demise of Nadir Shah, Azerbaijan saw emergence of the local states struggling for self-determining independence and sovereignty. So, in the II half of XVIII century Azerbaijan was divided into the different small states ruled by Khans and Sultans (dukes). The separation of the country into the local states brought about the military-political decline of the country. Although some of the Khanates endeavored to revive the ancient statehood traditions of Azerbaijan once again by unifying the whole country into a single and centralized state, due to the prevalent circumstances and lack of cohesion among the local states their aspirations remained unrealized. This state of affairs inflamed political disagreements and deepened divergences in the country which created a favorable opportunity for the foreign invaders long waiting to chance upon an unstable situation to occupy Azerbaijan.
At the end of XVIII century, the Azerbaijani-Turkish dynasty of Qajars (1796-1925) came to power in Iran. Qajars started pursuing the policy of bringing all the territories once ruled by their forefathers Gara Goyunlu, Agh Goyunlu, Sefevids and finally Nadir Shah, including the Azerbaijani small states under a central authority. Thus, a long period of wars started between Qajars and Russians who were seeking a chance to occupy the Southern Caucasus. Azerbaijan was converted to the land of bloody wars between the two big states. Emboldened and instigated by Russia with pledges of extra lands, the generals with Armenian and Georgian origins were taking advantage of this opportunity to perpetrate terrifying atrocities and mass murders against the peaceful people of Azerbaijan.
The long drawn out wars between Iran and Russia resulted in partition of Azerbaijan. On the basis of the Gulustan (1813) and Turkmenchay (1828) agreements signed between Iran and Russia, Azerbaijan was separated into two parts. According to these agreements, Northern Azerbaijan was annexed to Russia and Southern to the Iranian Kingdom ruled by the Qajars dynasty.
Division of Azerbaijan into two parts brought forth new political geographical notions: North Azerbaijan or Russian Azerbaijan and South Azerbaijan or Iranian Azerbaijan. Unlike South Azerbaijan which had been incorporated into the backward rule of the reactionary Kingdom regime, through Russia North Azerbaijan gained an access to the relatively advanced cultural-economical development processes going on in the Western Europe. But, with integration to Russia and Iran, the period of assimilation and absorption of the Azerbaijani people started, namely Rusification in North and Persianization in South of Azerbaijan.
In order to advance its territories further towards East and open a way to the warm waters, Russia started carrying out the stealthy policy of expelling the Azerbaijani people out of Caucasus. To achieve this goal, Russia was mainly relying on the support of the Christian population of the Southern Caucasus, precisely on the Armenians and Georgians who were migrated from Iran and Turkey to Azerbaijan deliberately for this purpose. Russia was using the Christian-Albanian population of Azerbaijan to materialize its malicious ethnic-cleansing plans. Forcible conversion of the Muslim population of the Southern Caucasus into Christians had gathered pace to make this end possible.
After the Byzantine Empire, the factor of Christianity once again became an effective tool of occupation and exploitation in the Southern Caucasus with the establishment of a new Christian state in the territories of Azerbaijan. Russia undertook massive relocation measures throughout the whole country in an effort to settle Christian population of Russia in the territories of Azerbaijan. Since this policy did not bear fruit in the beginning, Russia decided to create a bulwark of support for itself in the Southern Caucasus by organizing systematic mass migrations of the Armenian population from the neighboring countries to the Azerbaijani lands, especially to the mountainous region of Karabakh and previous Irevan and Nakhichevan Khanates. Along with this, the separate "Armenian Province" was created on the Western Azerbaijani lands bordering Turkey which laid the foundation for establishment of the future Armenian state on account of the territories belonging to Azerbaijan.
What's more, in 1836, Russia abolished the independent Albanian Church and subordinated it to the control of the Armenian Grigorian Church. In doing so, Russia created favorable conditions for the Grigorianization and Armenization of the Christian Albanians and assimilation of the Azerbaijani people into the Armenian culture. Emboldened by the Russian support, Armenians started making new territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Not sufficing with this, the Tsar Russia resorted to more abhorrent means such as raising Armenians against the Turkish-Muslim population and arming them to commit slaughters and mass murders. This period of history is fraught with horrible atrocities and massacres perpetrated against the blameless Azerbaijani people.
In the north-western regions of the country adjoining Georgia, the Christianization of the Azerbaijani people was entrusted upon the Georgian Church. Backed by Russian colonialists, the Georgian feudal took advantage of the situation to realize their long time aspiration, Pravoslavianization and Georgianization of the local Muslim population.
Although perfidious policies of the expansionist Tsar regime of Russia and contrivances of their menial servitors encountered fierce resistance of the local people, some Albanian villages were diverted from their religion on promises of great privileges and sharing the land which would be confiscated from the Azerbaijani landlords. Not sufficing with this, the colonialists converted all the ancient Albanian churches to Pravoslav churches and constructed new churches at every turn of the country. The Christianization of Azerbaijan was implemented by direct involvement and supervision of the vicegerent of Caucasus. Along with Christianization of the local population, the mass migration of the Christian population from Russia was also intensified. The aim of this strategy was to strengthen the Christian factor in the Southern Caucasus, especially in Azerbaijan as a warrant for the perpetuation of the oppressive Russian rule.
The people of South Azerbaijan were also subjected to the same type of repressive policies under the rule of the reactionary Kingdom regime in Iran. Soon after, the people of Azerbaijan who had been accustomed to live independently for centuries mounted a strong freedom struggle in both the North and South. Ironically, fearful of the unification of the country, the Russian and Iranian states, who had fought bloody wars against each other in order to seize Azerbaijan, became trusted allies for smothering the liberation movement of the Azerbaijani people. Despite the oppressions and cruelties carried out by the Tsarist Russia and reactionary Iranian regime, the people of Azerbaijan did not cease to fight for their independence. They raised repeated rebellions, fought many wars and lost countless people in their glorious liberation struggle.
During the revolutions of Russia (1905-1907) and Iran (1905-1911), the people of Azerbaijan were struggling in both the North and South for restoration of the sovereign statehood traditions and creation of a new democratic administrative system. During the First World War, the people of Azerbaijan rose once again in both the North as well as South for re-establishment of their own statehood traditions. The freedom movement of the Northern Azerbaijan was squelched tragically. On the order of the Dashnak-Bolshevik government headed by S. Shaumyan, a horrible massacre was committed against the innocent Azerbaijani people in March of 1918. Nevertheless, thanks to the assistance and military help of the brotherly Turkey, the freedom movement of the Azerbaijani people prevailed in North Azerbaijan. On 28th May in 1918, People's Republic of Azerbaijan was created in North Azerbaijan which was the ever-first democratic republic to be created in the Eastern world.
Meanwhile, an independent and democratic State of Azadistan was established in South Azerbaijan in 1920. Sheikh Muhammad Khiyabani became the head of the National Government of the Azadistan State. With the establishment of the national independent states, extensive national-democratic reforms started to be carried out in the territories of Azerbaijan, both in the North and South.
Thus, availing the historic opportunity brought about by the First World War, the people of Azerbaijan were able to revivify the old statehood traditions of Azerbaijan both in the Northern and Southern territories of Azerbaijan despite the complex circumstances. Establishment of national states reaffirmed that the people of Azerbaijan were capable of living free and independently. The fact that the government introduced in Azerbaijan at the beginning of XX century was based upon an exemplary parliamentary structure was in itself a historical achievement for the people of Azerbaijan.