There began a new phase of development in the medieval history of Azerbaijan, which major signs were the forms of ownership and land- tenure. This was such period, when in all countries of Mediterranean and Front Asia slavery phase was being destroyed and the signs of new progressive socio-economic formation, i.e. feudalism were being shaped.
These processes were extended in the areas of historical Azerbaijan too, but the main difference of Azerbaijan from above mentioned countries was that, feudal relations were shaped there much more earlier and much more intensively. Both in pre-Islamic and post-Islamic period whole right over useful and useless lands belonged to the state. As the supremacy over the land properties belonged to the state none of big land owners could be rivals with it. Only nobility and aristocracy, who served to the state and peasants, who planted the lands stayed between state and the right of land-tenure.
There were existed two types of feudal properties over lands in Albania, i.e. in the northern part of historical Azerbaijan: 1) absolute or hereditary ownership – dastakert, which was shaped at the result of the collapse of communal ownership and that was given to the representatives of leading class on the right of inherited estate by the state; 2) conditional land ownership – khostak, which was temporarily given to feudal aristocracy and clergy for their serving as vassals.
Although in early feudal phase absolute ownership was enlarged in Albania, but some period conditional ownership became the leading one. Along with these two ownerships there were also existed land properties of temples and churches, simultaneously, communal and private land properties of peasants.
At this period there were existed communal lands, private land properties, which was given by ShahenShah as conditional ones, lands of big feudal, which were hereditary properties and the lands of temples in the southern part of historical Azerbaijan, i.e. in Adurbadagan. The inherited land properties were called dastgirds, and conditional land properties were called khvastaks in Adurbadagan as in Albania.
According to the sources, Albanian society were divided into feudal-azats, who were the leading class of that time and peasants – shinakans. The representatives of the leading class were called nakharars, nakhapets, azgapets and etc. in these sources. Nevertheless differing from the term of “azats”, which meant the general class of feudal, the term of “nakharars” was concerned to the superior and high stratum of feudal aristocracy.
There was gradually shaped feudal hierarchy inside of the leading class. The power and role of the sovereign-ishkhan was strengthened in the centralized state. As the head of secular and religious power, he possessed the right of making law, led the deliberative organ, as well as he was the chief commander of the army. The highest stratum of the hierarchy belonged to big and middle aristocracy and the later one to the small nobility.
In the early period of governing of Sassanids, Azerbaijan became one of numeral regions (cities) of the Empire. The provinces were headed by shehrdars, but the provinces were led by paygospans. Differing from Adurbadagan, which became the one of provinces of Sassanids even in the early age of the existence of this Empire, Albania was able to preserve its local independence and this region was governed by the dynasty of Arshakids, which was in the reign since the first century AD. Certainly, the geographic positions and geostrategic essence of Albania, as well as its supportive politics to Sasanian Empire during Iranian – Byzantine wars assisted to this.
Major posts in Albania in the period of 3rd – first half of 7th centuries were khezarapet, khramanator and sparapet. In the early period of the existence of Sasanian Empire, Sassanid troops were led by khezarapets (i.e. the head of thousands). But later this title extended and became to concern to the guard of Shah’s treasure. In Albania khezarapet led the state expenses and khramantar as in Iran was the vezir and conducted all state issues. Sparapet himself was the commander of cavalry in Sassanid army, but in Albania this title was concerned to the head commander of the entire army.
There were existed two types of a court – church and tsar courts.
Church courts examined the issues of church servants, who violated laws, but tsar courts examined the conflicts among clergy and aristocracy, as well as crimes.
In Adurbadagan, which was completely subordinated to Sassanids and became the dastakert of ShahenShah and his family, the population were divided into 4 stratums: priests, military officers, scribes and tax- paying class. The last – forth stratum consisted of all working population – arable – farmers, cattle – breeders, craftsmen and merchants. The major mass of the working population in Atropatena were the independent peasants, who were united in the communities. It’s essential to mention that, major part of the forth stratum consisted of exploited class – who was depended on feudal, i.e. peasants that were united in peasant communities. As in Albania, in Adurbadagan the village communities were led by chiefs.
There were mentioned such terms as agarak and yerdumard in the sources. Agaraks were the allotments, belonging to yerdumards in Albania. “Yerd” meant allotment that was given to separate families and “mard” meant the man, who was responsible to this lands. So, according to the source, has noted that “when the azats devided their land and peoples … they re-established the payment for each yerd” or otherwise it meant as the devotion price of rent between azats and yerds of immediate producers. The therm of Yerdumard can be examined as lessee of the allotment.
Further development of peasant community played great role in the process of creation of feudal-dependant peasantry. The sources informed that, although the basic labour in Albania was consisted of peasants, slaves were also utilized in house-hold and state construction too. According to the source, Urnayr, Albanian governor appealed to his soldiers before the Dzirav battle and said that, “…. Remember, when we captivate the greek soldiers we should not kill all of them, because we would utilize them as slaves in our cities and palaces”. Local historian informed that, tsar Vachagan III turned all mags into slaves.
So, during the early feudalism, slavery existed in primitive form in Albania. But in Adurbadagan slavery was much more increased. Slaves worked both in temples and Shah’s properties. So that, differing from Albania, formation of feudal – dependant peasantry in Adurbadagan happened not only because of the evolution of peasant community, but also because of the shape of the new form of slave labour.
According to the evidences of sources, in the early period of formation of feudal relations the major form of the exploitation consisted of church and secular taxes, gathering as kind. There were existed such religious tribunes in Albania at that time as: poll-tax, church dessiatina, tax from the harvest, tax pack the soul of the deceased.
According to the order of Shapur II, in Adurbadagan, the person who did not pay poll-tax, became the dependant of the person who paid for him this tax.
During the ruling of Khosrov I, poll-tax-gezit was taken from all men from the years of 20 to 50 old, in both parts of Azerbaijan; only aristocracy, scribes, priests, and officers were free from this tax. Free shinakans were subjected to twice exploitation along with church exploitation: the exploitation of Albanian state, as well as Sasanian Empire, whose vassal was Albania. Peasant community paid land taxes on the amount of 1/5 of harvest along with poll-tax; craftsmen and merchants paid the tax of badj. In Adurbadagan the population paid taxes for the construction and repair of city walls, cleaning of canals and etc. along with land and poll-taxes.
In 4th-7th centuries, in the circumstances of the increasing of inherited ownership, development of private feudal ownership and arising of money exchange shaped suitable conditions to pay state taxes not only by kinds, but also by money. Increasing of taxes caused to the poverty of small landowners and made them sell their properties.
Strengthening of feudal relations create suitable conditions for the development of producing powers. On the written sources, archaeological and ethnographic materials witnessed that arable-farming, cattle-breeding and trade were much more developed in Azerbaijan at this period. Suitable climate, efficient lands, plenty of rivers, lots of summer and winter pastures (summer pasture in mountains and winter quarters) shaped objective conditions for such development.
Arable-farming, gardening and growing grapevines were developed especially in Kura-Arasian and Pre-Caspian lowlands and in Nakhichevan too. Remaining’s of various types of grains, arable farming tools, which were revealed during archaeological excavations, proved that, arable farming was developed in medieval Azerbaijan.
Evidences and information of early medieval authors proved that, cattle-breeding, as well as horse-breeding and fishery were developed along with arable-farming in Azerbaijan-both in Northern and Southern parts of this country. On this context, the information of Moisey Kalankatlu about Albania is much more interesting: “Albanian country, situating between Caucasian mountains possesses plenty of natural enrichments. Great river, the Kura slowly flows to the Caspian Sea, bringing small and big fish with it. This country possesses grain and vine, oil and salt, silk and cotton resources as well. Mountains are enriched with gold, silver and copper: There are plenty types of animals and birds. The capital of Albania is great Partav”.
Written and archaeological sources noted that, the process of creation of new cities (Partav Barda, Paytakaran/Beylagan) was happened along with the prosperity of ancient ones (Gabala, Nakhichevan , Chola/Derbend and etc.) in Albania during the early medieval period. There were existed three types of cities in Albania at that time. Partav, Derbent, Gabala, Beylagan were concerned the first type. Situating in the international transit ways and being the administrative and trade-craft centres, these cities were characterized as “great” and “glorious” cities in the sources.
Trade and craft centres, which were situated far from major trade ways, as Sheki, Shamkir, Girdiman, Nakhichevan should be concerned the second type. Such cities were simultaneously the castles, where main troops of the state were settled in. The cities of the third type were the administrative centre of feudal regions, but at the same time, from the social-economic view-point they should be considered half-city settlements with arable-farming characters. For example, Torpakkala in Gakh region and Gaurkala in Aghdam region were concerned the last type. According to the sources, these cities were governed by local governors-gordzakals.
Since the 5th century the capital of Albania was Gabala, which was existed till the 18th century. At the result of archaeological excavation in the city of Gabala there was found the treasure of coins, minted from the name of Sassanid ruler, Bakhram II. In 5th century at the result of hun invasions and attacks the economic and political role of Gabala decreased, so, the capital city was moved to Barda. But the centre of Albanian church was situated in Gabala till the 5th century.
Beginning from the 5th century the capital of Albania, as well as the residence of Sassanid governor became Partav, which was situated in the intersection of essential trade ways. Later, the residences of last Arshakids and Mikhranid princes who came to the governor after them was also situated in Partav. This city, being the centre of craft and trade was destroyed by khazars, who fought in the side of Byzantine in 628, during Iranian-Byzantine wars, but was restored soon. Sources mentioned the names of Shabran, Shamakha, Khalkhal, Amaras, Khunan and other cities as well-known cities of that time. In the southern part of Azerbaijan more famous, cities of that period were Ardabil, Qazaka, Maragha/Afrakhruz, Tabriz, Urmia and etc. Qazaka, Maragha and Ardabil were the capitals of Atropatena/Adurbadagan in various years.
At the result of increasing of productive power, development and strengthening of feudal relations, as well as increasing the role of cities in the economy of Albania and Adurbadagan, there were shaped certain changes in social structures of the cities – there were created free craftsmen, who broke off relations with arable-farmers.
In Azerbaijan, which possessed rich material resources were developed many kinds of craft, as well as weaving and pottery, jewellery and so on. Remaining of carpets, glass items, pottery stoves, jewellery things, discovered in the territory of historical Albania (in Beylagan, Minghachavir, Gabala, Shamakha, Torpakkala and etc.) proved the information of written sources about craft of that period.
Persian sources of medieval period also give information about the craft kinds and the masters of these spheres in the southern part of Azerbaijan during 3rd-7th centuries. These masters settled in various quarters (mahallas), but they united in corporations and workshops.
Written sources and archaeological excavations witnessed about the wide development of internal and foreign trades in Azerbaijan. So, there were discovered such items of jewellery and coins during the archaeological investigations that, they were brought here from foreign countries.
According to the written sources, Albania, which was able to preserve its political independence at this period were divided into gavars – regions and nakhangs – provinces on the context of administrative – territorial attitude. Left shore of Albania was divided only into gavars. On the local Albanian source, called “Armenian geography of the 7th century” mentioned Gabala, Sheki, Kambisena, Ejder consisted of eleven gavars; first three gavars were episcopates of Albanian church. The provinces of Lpinia and Chola, which could preserve local autonomy and lost it only during the reign of Vachagan III, were also included to left shore of Albania.
Right shore of Albania wad divided into four big provinces (nakhangs) – Artsakh, Uti, Paytakaran and Syunik.
Each of these nakhangs subdivided into small gavars, which played the role of church – administrative entities.
During the reign of Sasanian Empire Albania possessed the territory, which stretched from Derbent in the North till the river of Aras in the South, from Iberia in the West till the Caspian Sea in the East.