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Culture of Azerbaijan in the 16th & 17th centuries

The establishment of Safavids state and the shape of stable socio- political situation, assisted not only to economic development, but also to the growth of cultural life and science of the country. Literature creators and art people were specially protected by Shah Ismail I. There lived and created such poets, as Sururi, Shahi, Matemi, Tufeyli, Kasimi, Emir Shamsaddin Muhammed, Qasiri, Sadik bey Afshar, Sharif Tabrizi, Movlana Kalbali and etc. in his court. Their assembly-mejlis (here: literature assembly, circle) was led by “the tsar of poets”, Habibi. It is enough to mention that, great Fuzuli was under the influence of Habibi’s poetry, and wrote his prominent Khamsa by the steps of this poet.

The founder of Azerbaijan Safavids state, great political statesman and general Shah Ismail I was the most prominent poet, who wrote his works under the nickname of “Khatai” as well. He wrote his poetry especially in Azerbaijan Turkish language. Khatai was interested in the creation of works in simple national language and even created the samples of popular poetry: goshma, gerayli, varsagi, bayati and other samples of poetic elements, which were regarded secondary ones. The  created lyric-romantic poema by the poet, called “Ten letters” was the first poem in this theme, which was written in Azerbaijan language.

Poem was compiled in the context of ten letters of lover, addressed to his sweet-heart. Gezels, which were included to the poema gave chance to poet to express the feelings of heroes as well. Khatai checked his talent in didactic janre too and created the poem of “Nasihatname”. He is the other of the divan of poems. The poetry of Shah Ismail Khatai influenced deeply to the further development of Azerbaijan literature.

Emir Shamsaddin Muhammed, who created his works under the nickname of “Fakhmi”, was the head of court poets for nine years and was the author of kasidas, gezels, rubayies. Qasiri, who was one of the prominent poets at the end of 15th and at the of beginning 16th centuries was the first poet who created the poem of “Leyli and Majnun” in Turkish language and finished this poem in 1525. Sharif Bitlisi wrote his poems in Persian and Turkish languages. Sadig bey Afshar used from the poems of Sharif, written in Turkish language in his own work, called “Macma ul-khavas” (“Anthology of the choosen”). Another prominent poet of that epoch was Movlana Kalbali, who wrote his works in Turkish and Persian languages.

The top of Azerbaijan poetry in this period, was certainly the creativity of the prominent poet, Muhammed Fuzuli, who created such immortal works, as “Leyli and Majnun”, “Shikayetname”. Fuzuli was also the author of philosophic treatise, which he taught humanistic, progressive ideas of that time. At the end of 16th-17th centuries Azerbaijan language and literature were enriched by the vehicle of other Azerbaijan poets and their creatings, such as Muhammed Amani, Qovsi Tabrizi, Mesikhi, Tarzi Afshar, Saib Tabrizi and others.

After that Shah Abbas I moved the capital of the state from Kazvin to Isfahan in 1590, most part of poets, literatures, artists, calligraphers, doctors and architectures were imigrated to the new capital. Many people of Tabriz were settled in Isfahan on the shore of the river of Zayenderud in the quarter, called “Abbasabad” or “Tabreze” (“Tabrizians”). Isfahan turned into one of the major cities, where Azerbaijan culture had been developing as well. Poet Hussein Chalabi, who wrote with the nickname of “Zahidi”, Mirza Mohsun with the nickname of “Ta’sir” were most prominent Tabrizians, who lived in Isfahan.

One of the prominent literatures and scientists of the epoch of Shah Abbas I, who put great trace in the culture of Azerbaijan in the eve of 16th-17th centuries, was Sadiq bey Afshar, who fluently knew Turkish,  Arabic and Persian languages. According to Kazi Ahmed Kumi, Sadiq bey was engaged in bibliography of Shah Abbas’s personal library. Sadiq bey was the author of lots of kasidas, gezels, kit’as, and rubayies and read the poems very well. Sadiq bey gave brief survey of his ten creations in 1601. Among them – books of kasidas and rubayies, description of Shah Abbas’s victories, divan of gezels in Turkish and Persian languages, which were put in alphabetic order were much more famous. The one of his major works could be regarded “Macma ul- khavas”, which was treatise, written in 1607, in Azerbaijan Turkish language; this was written in the context of “Masalis-un-nafais” – the work of great poet of Central Asia, Alishir Navai. This work was dedicated to 480 masters of word, who lived from the period of Shah Ismail I till Shah Abbas I. There were well-known several miniatures of Sadiq bey, two of them are kept in one of the museums of Chrachov (Poland); one of the major works of Sadiq bey was dedicated to decorative art, which was called “Qanun us-suvar” (“Rules of drawing”).

There were developed different janeres of oral poetry. In historical-heroic dastans (epos) people branded tyrans and conquerors, glorified kindness and courage of heroes in the struggle with conquerers and exploiters. Such works of oral poetry as “Shah Ismail”, “Asli and Kerem”, “Ashuq Qarib”, “Abbas and Gulgaz”, “Koroghlu” came to nowadays in different manuscripts. The most popular epos was “Koroghlu”. There was reflected the struggle of the nation against exploitation and despotism of feudal ierarchy in this epic work. The hero of this epos-Koroghlu was examined as the fighter for national happiness, defender of all oppressed people, despite of their national and religious identity.

The 16th-17th centuries were the period of growth of ashug art.

The greatest masters of ashug art in 16th-17th centuries were Ashuq Qurbani, Ashuq Abbas Tufarqanli, Sari Ashuq, Ashuq Abdulla, Khasta Qasim.

The most prominent representative of national poetry in 16th century was Ashug Qurbani. The life of nation, his struggle and aspirations were reflected in goshmas and eposes of Ashug Qurbani. He was sent to Iran by the vehicle of one of the vezirs of Shah Ismail, who did not like him. Here he wrote his qoshma, which began with the line, “My Complete murshid, my son of Sheikh Shah, I have a request to you, my Shah” and sent it to Shah. Qurbani, who was released and returned from exile to his native land by the order of Shah called Shah Ismail Khatai “pir” (“my shine”) in his other goshma.

One of the most prominent ashugs of the 17th century, was Abbas Tufarganli, who was born in the village of Tufargan, near Tabriz.

The life way of the poet became the theme of national dastan, called “Abbas and Gulgaz”. Abbas Tufarganli was the sample and school for succeeding poets-ashugs. The created goshma, tecnis, gerayli, and ustadname by Abbas Tufarganli were famous among the mass population. In this period, bayati became one of the major janres of national literature. Bayati of Sari Ashuq Karamanli, which created in 17th century, was famous among the people, even a part of these bayati came to the present day.

The national art, represented by ashugs assisted to the creation of great epic literature; there was reflected not only spiritual world of Azerbaijan/azeri Turks, but also historical events of that time in national epos of 16th-17th centuries. Romantic – lyric epos of “Ashug Qarib” took an essential place among them. At the expense of national singers-ashugs these awesome works were preserved till nowadays. Namely in 16th-17th centuries, Azerbaijan language extended among the people and it was confirmed as the vehicle of communication for many Caucasian nations and neighbourhood regions.

Pictorial art, calligraphy, architecture also improved in the examined period. Tabriz school of miniature painting art, which shaped in the 14th century, reached to its bloom in these two centuries. The most prominent representative of this school was Sultan Muhammed. His miniatures are preserved in the museums of St.Petersburg, London, Leypsig, Venesia. School fostered such talented artists, as Kemaleddin Behzad, Mir Musavvir Tabrizi, Mir Zeynalabdin Tabrizi, Movlana Muzaffar Ali and others. Shah’s library, which was founded by Shah Ismail Khatai in Tabriz was the special “academy of arts” and there worked talented pictorial artists, gilders, bookbinders, decoraters here.

One of the leading spheres of art was artistical callagraphy.
Although typography had not been known among the Eastern peoples, manuscripts were multiplied by calligraphers and they became the subject of the contract of sale. Manuscripts, composed by such well- known masters-calligraphers as Ubeydulla, Mir Ali Tabrizi’s son (who was well-known with the nickname of “masterly pen”), Ali bey Tabrizi, Muhammed Baghir Ordubadi, Nizameddin Ali Ardebili, Mir Abdulbeyi Danishmend, Ali Rza Tabrizi Abbasi and others were much more appreciated too. Major engagement of calligraphers was the preparation of manuscript books, which were decorated with miniatures and became the artistic work later. Plenty of such manuscripts are kept in big museums of the world.

The sons of Shah Ismail (as their father) were the protectors of literature and art, as well as they were engaged in creation oeuvre. So that, one of his sons – Sami Mirza was an author of political anthology, the other – Bahram Mirza was well-known as famous calligrapher, poet, musician and artist.

In this period there were complied many historical works, which were reflected the events of internal policy and foreign relations of Azerbaijan Safavids state in the period of its establishment and power.

So that, Azerbaijan historian, Hasan bey Rumlu wrote 12 volumed work, called “Ahsan at-tavarikh” (The best history) and Iskandar bey Munshi wrote valuable work about the history of Azerbaijan, Iran and neighbourhood countries. The historical-geographic work of Don Juan (Juan) Persian, which was dedicated to the Safavids state also possessed special place in the history of Azerbaijan. Kizilbash ambassador, Orucbey (who was from Bayat tribe by origin) was known as Don Juan in Europe. He visited to Russia, Germany, Chech Republic, Italy, Portugal and Spain in the structure of Safavids embassy during 1599- 1601s; he converted to Christianity and stayed there. Orucbey’s work had been published in Spanish language in the presence of author (1604).

Medicine reached to its certain development in Azerbaijan too. The most prominent doctor of that time was Abulfath Tabrizi, who was called Hakim-kichik (Little doctor) because of his little growth. Ala Tabrizi, Imadaddin Mahmudi and others were also among the mentioned doctors.

The 16th-17th     centuries, were the continuation of previous architectural traditions. Various town-planning celebrities were realized in the whole territory of Azerbaijan in 16th century, but the 17th century marked by the construction of big amount of socio-religious settlements in bigger cities and the erection of architectural complexes here.

Because of the development of trade and extension of international trade-diplomatic ties in these years the number of caravan- seraies, bathes, bazaars (markets) and religious buildings in Shamakha, Ganja, Baku, Ardebil (“Qeysariyye bazari”), Tabrizi, Arash and other essential trade-craft centres of the country increased.

Caravan-seraies had general essence in the East, as well as in Azerbaijan. In this period, caravan-seraies, along with houses, mosques and trading centres, which were related with them played an important role in the structures of cities of Azerbaijan. The construction of bathes enlarged in the cities of Azerbaijan, as in other cities of feudal East.

Bathes did not implement only hygienic role, but it was the place for rest, meetings, negotiations and conduct of board games as well. The best samples of Azerbaijan bathes are the bathes, in Icheri-sheher, in the city of Baku (15th-16th centuries), in the village of Baskal, in Ganja (“Chokek hamam”, 17th century).

In the conclusion of the chapter we may mention that Azerbaijan language and literature, art and architecture never reached to such level of development as in 16th-17th centuries. Substantially, this period could be examined as the phase of revival and shape of new national culture with ideological points of Safavids.

About Ismayil bey Zardabli

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