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 north-western 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 north-western 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’s 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 ethnicpolitical 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 integratedculture 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 EuropeanEastern 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 wellthought-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.
Тowards 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 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 Mediterranean 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 both in 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 both in 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 both in 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.