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Culture of Azerbaijan in the 15th century

In the 15th century, on the period of the reign of Karakoyunlu and Aghqoyunlu dynasties was the phase of development of the culture too. Science, architecture, calligraphy and applied art were much more developed spheres. Azerbaijan continued to be one of the important cultural centres of the East. There were shaped new schools, medreses and institutions of high education.

Schools were considered the preparation phase to medrese. The students got education in school till 15 year and then they were accepted to medrese. Along with religious education, there were taught such subjects as literature, history, geography, mathematics, astrology, logics, philosophy in medrese. There worked such prominent medrese as “Ghazaniyye”, “Felekiyye”, “Magsudiyye”, “Muzaffariyye” and “Nasriyye” in Azerbaijan in that period. There were existed the medrese of “Shafisiyye”, “Khanefiyye” in Shanbi-Ghazan, the medrese in “Shahmechet” (Palace of ShirvanShahs) in Baku, the medrese of Seyid Yahya in Ardebil, “Doven-Irshad” in the mousaleum of Sheikh Safi, medrese in quarter mosque of Derbend and high educational institution in Rabi-Rashidi where worked 500 teachers as well. There were functioned big libraries in Tabriz, Ardebil, Baku, Shamakha and Ganja. There were collected, hundreds of books, refered to various spheres of science in Ardebil, in the mousaleum of Sheikh-Safi. There were functioned big libraries in the palaces of Aghqoyunlu rulers, Uzun Hasan and Sultan Yaqub, in Tabriz as well.

Differing from previous periods, there were taught Azerbaijan- turkish language in schools and medrese along with Arabic and Persian ones. The work were generally written in Azerbaijan language too.

The sample to this evidence was the prominent scientist of that time, Seyid Yahya Bakuvi. There were composed comments to the work of Sheikh Mahmud Shabustari, “Gulshani- raz” as well as created the treatise, called “Asran at-talibin” (“Secret of sources of truth”) by him. He compiled him of works on history and astrology. His students- Ziyaaddin Shirvani, Abdulmejid Shirvani were also the authors of many scientific works. Badreddin Seyid Ahmed Lalevi, who was from Tabriz by origin was the scientist of logics, grammer, literature and mathematics. He was an author of several works.

Prominent geographer and historian Hamdullah Kazvini, who lived in Tabriz was the author of well-known works such as “Rarakhi- gozide” and “Nuzkhat al-kulub”. The one of famous scientists of the 15th century was Abdurrashid Saleh Bakuvi (1402-1479). He was an author of valuable works on history and geography. His work on historical geography, called “Talkhis al-asar” (“Dedication of works”) gave information about cities and architectural monuments of Azerbaijan.

There were gathered lots of scientists and poets in the palace of Aghqoyunlu ruler, Sultan Yaqub. Among the historians, who served in this palace were Abu Bakr Tehrani, Idris Bidlisi, Fazlullah Rusbikhan Khundji. The works of Abu Bakr Tehrani were also famous – “Tarikhi Diyarbakiriyye”, which was dedicated to the period of Uzun Hasan and the work of Fazlullah Ruzbikhan Khundji – “Tarikhi alum-arayn- Amini”, which reflected the reign of Sultan Yaqub. The development of the science increased the demand to book industry; there was essentially developed calligraphy in Azerbaijan and in Tabriz, there was shaped prominent school of calligraphy, which was famous in the whole East.

Literature. The 15th-16th centuries were the new branch in the development of political, economic and cultural life of Azerbaijan nation. Since the 15th century Azerbaijan literature began to develop in the native language.

Although Azerbaijan literature preserved previous traditions, the social-economic events of this period influenced to it more.

One of the poets of the second half of 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, Imadaddin Nasimi played an important role in the development of Azerbaijan poetry. Nasimi was an author of “Divan” which was written in Azerbaijan language. He wrote poems in Arabic and Persian languages too. Poems, which were written in Azerbaijan language by him, provided the exit of our native language to the historical arena and its strengthening as the vehicle of science. He enriched literary of Azerbaijan language at the expense of vital native language, improved the poetry from the viewpoint of rythmic and harmony.

Imadaddin Nasimi, who supported the philosophic-mystic points of hurrufizm in poetry, rose against hermist life, their fatality did not believe to legends about hell and paradise, which remoted them from the demands and obligations of contemporary life.
Nasimi brought valuable innovations to Azerbaijan literature and played an important role in the development of national poetry with his creation.

The one of individuals, who played prominent role in social and cultural life of Azerbaijan in 15th century was the poet, JahanShah Hagigi. The third son of the founder of Karakoyunlu state, Qara Yusif JahanShah was born in 1397, not far from the city of Khoy. Haqiqi was interested in poetry, music, folklore a lot, shaped close ties with prominent people of his time, appreciated science and education. JahanShah was the ruler of Karakoyunlu state in the years of 1438-1467.

His son Pirbudagh, was also inclined to poetry.

Another prominent representative of literature in the 15th century, was Nematullah Kishvari, who was born in Kazvin. The poet, who lived in the palace of Sultan Yaqub, was inclined to the heritage of Nasimi, but he was interested in love lyrics and was far from the influence of dervish sextant.

In his works, Kishvari used such ancient Azerbaijan words, as “tilbe” instead of “deli” (“mad”), “ayaq”, instead of “khasta” (“sick”). In the next years, these words were substituted by their Persian and Arabic equivalents.

If we examine the literatury achievements of the 15th century, we can say that, as in 13th-14th centuries, there was pursued the weakening of court poems, enlorgies and odes in this period too. There was deepened the phylosophyc lyrics, the reflection of the motives of protest in mystic form against counquests, unjustice under the influence of such poets-thinkers as Nasimi, Hagigi and Kishvari; there was critized fanatism and reactioned religious ideology, strengthened the ideas of freedom of religion in this period as well.

Monuments of art and architecture. Each monument, which reached to us from our ancestors, reminds official document that was engraved in the memory of history. These monuments exit from the frame of natural signs and become the original source of evidences.

Proof to this, is the epitaph of the tomb in the form of trunk with awesome artistic design, which was located in the palace complex of ShirvanShahs.

Besides of it, the epitaphies, which were revealed in Baku and in Absheron, i.e. in the territory of the complex of ShirvanShahs palace gave exact evidences about administrative organization of this state.

Also, on the ground of epitaphies, which reached to our time, we can say that Sufism was one of the widely spread social-ideological trends in Azerbaijan.

There were preserved the monuments of murids and sheikhs in 15th century. Pair minarets and mousaleums informed us about those times. There were preserved interesting facts about the organization of brotherhood of “akhi”es, which functioned in Azerbaijan among craftsmen and urban poverty on the epitahpies. The epitaph in the dwelling-place of Akhi of the village of Kurdakhani in Absheron, two epitaphies on the fortress walls of Icherisheher in Baku (14th-15th centuries), epitaph of Mirza Muhammed ibn Haji Akhi Ashur, who was buried in the sacred object of Nardaran, epitaph, named after Muhammed Amin, the son of Movlana Sheykh Yusif, who was buried in the village of Shekhlar of Khachmaz region in 1455/56 and etc. were referred to such monuments. It is important to mention that the tombs of the successors of the section of “Khalvatiyye” ended in the form of head with hat, arisen from shoulders and the hat’s were half-round. Mousaleum of “Diribaba”, which was constructed in the village of Maraza, on an ancient caravan way of Baku-Shamakha was located inside of rock cave. On the epitaph, revealed there was mentioned the name of Ibrahim I and desire of imprortalization of his name by Allah. By the order of ShirvanShah Farrukh Yashar there was constructed the building of medrese in the complex of Juma Mesjid, in Derbend. As it was mentioned on epitaph, medrese was called with the name of ShirvanShah, “Medrese Farrukhiyye”. The epitaphies which mentioned about extra construction of the buildings of medrese, mosques, bathes in the ShirvanShahs palace, in Baku as well as the enlargement of the palace showed the improvement of political and economic weight of the state of ShirvanShahs in the 15th century.

The creation of caravanserais, khanegs, buildings, ovdans, various social objects on the caravan ways, extension of existed constructive complexes in Azerbaijan in 15th century testify about social, economic and cultural development of the country.

There were kept big amount of epigraphic monuments, which showed the essence of other trade ways in Absheron peninsula-on the shore of the Caspian Sea and the creation of fortresses, caravanserais, defensive settlements, social buildings, related with this construction of complex character.

Decorative   art also improved along with constructive art; especially there improved such spheres as design of books, art of miniature.

In 15th century, there were copied scientific and historical works, monuscripts with artistic-literatury content, which were decorated with wonderful miniatures in the libraries of ShirvanShahs, Karakoyunlu and Aghqoyunlu. There served such calligraphers as Mirali Tabrizi, Mirabdulla Tabrizi, Jafar Tabrizi, Azhar Tabrizi, Suleiman Ali Yaqubi, Nizamaddin Ali Ardebili in Tabriz, Shamakha and other cities of Azerbaijan. There worked 58 calligraphy masters and artists in the library of Uzun Hasan, “Amaleye-kitabkhaneye-humayun”.

In the second half of the 15th century, the artists, masters on book design worked in court libraries of Uzun Hasan (then, Sultan Yagub) in Tabriz, as well as in the library of ShirvaShahs in Shamakha. There were preserved the miniatures of manuscrift of Hidayat’s “Divan” in the library of Chester Bitti (Dublin, Ireland). There was kept the monuscript of “Khamsa” of Nizami, which was decorated by miniature in 1481, in the Topkapi museum in Istanbul. We can give a lot of examples to the miniature school of Tabriz.

Local masters who lived in the cities in 15th century, made the various patterns of decorative art, which had artistic value. It is important to mention that brass compasses, which possessed to Shirvan school were kept in the private collection of R.Kharari in the USA.

There were used various types of tiles, in various forms, colours, with different images in the construction of “Goy mesjid” in Tabriz, in 1465. Most of all, there were utilized from blue and dark blue tiles, so that, this mosque was called “Goy mesjid”.

There was essentially improved music in Azerbaijan in the period of Karakoyunlu and Aghqoyunlu leaders. Tabriz music was in the centre of attendance of European travellers. There existed facts about the spectacle that was showed on “Kurt meydani” (“square of wolf”) in Tabriz, with the capacity of 30 thousand spectators, was always met with interest of observers. Main musical instruments were ud, ney, barbat, cang and sindj.

There were used from sheypur, sindji, karaney and trum during the wars.

At the end of 14th -in the 15th centuries Tabriz and Shirvan- Absheron schools were in the centre of attendance in the sphere of architecture. Major attendance was given to the town-planing in this period. In 14th-15th centuries, main objects of town-planing were Sultaniyye, Nakhichevan and Ganja.

We can imagine the development of town-planing in 15th century, on the context of Baku. Moving of rulers’ residences from Shamakha to this city and the construction of the palace complex were the bright samples to this. The palace was approximately built in 1435, by the architecturer Ali, during the reign of Khalilullah I.

Palace complex of “Hasht-behisht” in Tabriz, which was constructed by Uzun Hasan Aghqoyunlu and that was consisted of 20 rooms was one of wonderful samples of Azerbaijan architecture.

There were constructed plenty of defensive buildings around Baku and in Absheron, which supplanted feudal castles. The fortress wall of Baku, constructed in 15th century, sorrounded the city in two sides and ended in the depth of the Caspian Sea.

There was re-built the fortress walls of Shamakha in 15th century.

“Goy mesjid”, which was constructed in 1465 by JahanShah Karakoyunlu, was one of the awesome samples of the architecture of the East. “Shah-mesjidi” (1442) in the complex of ShirvanShah palace and “TubaShahi” in the village of Mardakan, in Absheron were the wonderful samples of religious constructions.

Tombs, which were constructed in the village of Khazra, in Kusar region, as well as the tomb of Sheikh Badraddin, built in 1446 and the tomb of Sheikh Barik, referred to 15th century were octagonal. There have been preserved civil constructions, bathes and caravanserais till the present day.

Hurufizm, which was founded by Fazlullah Naimi in 14th century, later was much more increased, but it lost its oppositional and revolutionary role at the end of the 15th century. At the end of the 15th century, essential trend of philosophic thought in Azerbaijan became mystic-phanteistic teaching of kizilbashes.

The representatives of sufi philosophy in Azerbaijan in 15th century were Shah Kasim Anvar, Shams Maghribi, Seyid Yahya Bakuvi, Yusif Miskuri and other thinkers.

Valuable works on logics were created by Shukrullah Shirvani and Badraddin Seyid Ahmed Lelevi (1436-1506). Hurufistic view was reflected in the philosophic poetry of JahanShah Hegigi as well.

Coins, which were kept till the modern period could be considered the wonderful samples of material culture of that phase. There were revealed Treasury, lots of golden, silver and copper coins, which were minted from the name of both the rulers of Azerbaijan and from the name of Emir Teymur, Tokhtamush and others, who made conquests and campaign to these lands at the result of archaeological excavations in Baku, Shamakha, Ardebil, Maragha, Kazvin, Kirman,


Kashan. The remains of coin palaces are also interesting for the study of this material culture.

In the conclusion of the chapter, who should mention that the 15th century possess its essential place in the improvement of history and culture of Azerbaijan.

About Ismayil bey Zardabli

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