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Cities & crafts in 16th century / Azerbaijan

The influence of these political events to the circumstance of producing forces, first of all, to the condition of urban economy was great. None of the essential cities of Azerbaijan, besides of Ardebil, which had not been captured by Turkish troops, could not escape from heavy results of these wars. Tabriz, Nakhichevan, Ganja, Khoy, Karabakh, Marand, Shabran and Culfa suffered much more than others. Many merchants were robbed. Hosilities caused to the decline of urban life, firstly, craft industry and trade. Approximately, the export of Azerbaijan goods on transite ways, passing through the territory of Turkey had been completely stopped. The violation of normal functioning of foreign and transite trade was negatively inflicted to the urban economy.

According to d’Alessandry, there were 52 cities in the Safavids state, in the second half of the 16th century. Probably, there were big and small towns, but the small ones were more than big cities. There was concentrated essential amount of craft-trade population in cities, rebirthed industrial regions. There was existed big amount of small tradecraft settlements, related with internal and foreign trade as well. Big settled zones was not differ from small ones according to the number of population and its external view. In the economy of these areas craft and trade played more subsidiary role (but essential as well) than major spheres of economy-arable-farming and gardening.

Urban population was engaged in the planting of agricultural cultures and raw materials, especially, technique for the improvement of craft industry. There were many auxiliary industries (gardens, fields, big and horned cattle and so on) within the cities, which consitituted the material-raw basics of the country. Urban-settlers had gardens, which surrounded big squares. Italian Alessandry mentioned that in the 70’s of the 16th century “there are plenty of gardens, which borders equal to 15 mile” in Tabriz.

The one of the biggest cities of Safavids period was Shamakha. As it was mentioned in previous chapters, Shamakha was the political centre of ShirvanShahs state in the Middle Ages. This situation assisted to the transition of Shamakha into one of the biggest cities of Azerbaijan. When the state of ShirvanShahs finally declined in 1538, Shamakha became the centre of Shirvan beylerbeylik in the part of Safavids state. Although the city ceded its place to the major city of Shirvan-Aresh for exact period, it had preserved its role as tradecraft centre of the country yet.

The assimilation of Volga-Caspian trade way since the second half of the 16th century, caused to the growth the trade essence of Shamakha. Safavids-Ottoman wars at the end of 16th-the beginning of 17th centuries inflicted great damage to the economy of the cities and Shamakha was deeply destroyed after its conquest by the troops of Shah Abbas I (in 1607).

The basics of monetary system of the state was accepted the silver coin “shakhi”, the shape of this term was probably related with the title of “Shah”. The weight of shakhi equaled to two Safavids miskals about 4.68 gramms, i.e. 9.36 gramms, which coincided to 50 copper dinars.

As the major monetary one shakhi had been minted during the whole reign of Safavids, but its weight standart had being changed, till its status as the major one was changed in the presence of Shah Abbas I, at the end of the 16th century.

Serious diffucuties that shaped because of the shortage of monetary mass, which were taken by the winner-Ottoman Sultan Selim (1512-1520) after the conquest of Tabriz, reflected in the dynamics of coin minting, as well as the monetary industry of the state. Strictly kept weight of the minted coin in the presence of Ismail I, had been broken before the Chaldiran battle, in 917/1511/12, and after the triumphate in the East, long before the defeat in the West. This break continued till 922/1516. We don’t know, whether it was related with military preparation or accidential, but the coins of those years did not reach to nowadays.

About Ismayil bey Zardabli

Author of t extbook for the higher educational institutions "THE HISTORY OF AZERBAIJAN, from ancient times to the present day"