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Economic circumstances in the period of arabic dominion. Trade and craft city-centers

Arable farming. Arable farming and cattle breeding continued play significant role in economic life of Azerbaijan in the second half of 7th- 10th centuries. Arable tools in various constructions played an important role in farther development of arable farming of Azerbaijan and the increasement of its productivity. More qualified and deeper cultivation of the land could be implemented by the vehicle of utilize of improved plough. Ordinary plough became the most important tool in cultivation of land in 7th-10th centuries and was widely applied in the whole territory of Azerbaijan (in Shirvan, Arran, Nakhichevan and Southern regions of Azerbaijan). However, the shape of heavy or “black” plough, which provided to cultivate lands deeper and better was the great event in arable farming. There was no need for deep cultivation of land in mountainous regions, related with climate conditions, specialty of relief and soft ground. That is why, “black” plough was oftenly applied in foot hills and plam regions.

In this period, there has already been applied arranged system.

There has been known two-field and three-field system with spring sowings. Hacked arable farming was kept in wood regions. In plains, as well as partly in mountainous regions there was applied artificial irrigative. Difficult systems, preserved till nowadays, various methods of irrigation, rich terminology, legends as well as traces of ancient canals and other irrigative items (springs, kakhrizes and etc.) told us about high level of development of irrigative system in Azerbaijan.

Natural farming and climate conditions of Azerbaijan made a chance of shape and development of artificial irrigation and its different types in Azerbaijan. Major essence in the technique of irrigation was given to the erection of main canal that was supported by special rules, which were related with the facilitation of labor processes. There were largely utilized from the labor of slaves, who were captivated by soldiers during wars.

Beginning from 7th-10th   centuries rice-growing, which was developed slowly before, began to increase rapidly and play more important role in economic life of Azerbaijan. Rice growing was widely extended in Shabran, Shirvan, Sheki and Lenkharan region during 9th- 10th centuries. Among technical cultures, flax and cotton were much more enlarged in Medieval Azerbaijan at that time. Artificial irrigation of Mughan, Mil and other plain regions created special conditions for the development of cotton growing and this industry became one of major spheres of agriculture. There was often mentioned in sources that, “Arran produces lots of cotton”. Study of cotton remaining, found in Minghachavir settlement №3, which was referred to 3rd-8th centuries showed that the cultivated cotton-plant in Azerbaijan at that time was close to modern sorts. Among technical cultures saffron and madder also possessed an essential place in the economy of medieval Azerbaijan and they were more important goods, which were exported to foreign countries.

In 9th century, weaving became much more developed field in the cities of Azerbaijan. At the result of silk-growing along with other spheres of economy became one of the mainest fields in several regions. Al-Istakhri and “Khudud al-alam” (10th century) testified that there was no such great, prosperous and beautiful city, equaled to Barda, where was growing plenty of mulberry trees and producing lots of silk. There were given evidences about the producing of silk in other regions of Arran also development of silk growing in Shabran and Shirvan.

In 7th-10th centuries market-gardening became the independent field. Simultaneously, gardening also continued to develop at that time.

There was revealed the remaining of pomegranate, peach, nuts, apple, pear and other fruits in archaeological excavations.

There are valuable evidences in lots of sources about the development of gardening in medieval Azerbaijan. Arabic travelers mentioned that there couldn’t be found such pomegranates, cherry, mulberry and nuts in different regions of Azerbaijan in the works of authors. According to written sources, the researchers considered that in 9th century the Azerbaijani grape, apple, pear, apricot, pomegranate, chestnut and other fruits were utilized in the whole medieval Past. Among sub-tropical culture olive was much more spread fruit in medieval Azerbaijan.

Wine growing was also developing along with gardening in Azerbaijan at that time. But the dissemination of Islam influenced to wine-growing and wine-making at that time. So, vineyards in large areas were destroyed by Arabs in Azerbaijan.

Cattle breeding. In 8th-10th centuries settled and nomadic forms of cattle breeding played leading role in Azerbaijan. But, simultaneously semi nomadic cattle-breeding was shaped and gradually developed at that time. It is important to mention that nomadic tribes settled in Azerbaijan and played an important role in the formation of semi nomadic cattle breeding in this region. Other factors, which influenced to the shape of semi nomadic cattle breeding were suitable conditions and many pastures in Azerbaijan.   Several researchers think that semi nomadic cattle breeding where was shaped in the phase of early medieval finally formed in 11th-12th centuries.
Semi-nomadic cattle breeding was enlarged in Shirvan, Karabakh, Mil and Mughan steppes.

According to written sources, horse and camel-breeding was also developed in Azerbaijan at that time. According to their evidences khazars withdrew plenty of horses from the country in 764. Arabic authors 8th-10th centuries informed that Azerbaijan was famous with its fast and endurable horses. They were especially evaluated in Iran, Iraq, and Syria. In “My grandfather Korkud´s book” there was told about horse-breeding in details. After the conquest of Azerbaijan by Arabs, there began to foster Arabic horses. After a while, Arabic horses mixed with local breed, at the result of which was shaped new breed with higher indicators. Karabakh horses were much more well-known breed at that time.

Development of merchantry gave a chance to the intensive development of camel-breeding. Camel was indis pensable animal for carrying heavy luggage. According to archaeological materials and written sources, we can testify that there were fostered dromedary and two-humped breeds of camel in the Middle Ages’ Azerbaijan. These animals were very endurable, took big luggage, rapid enough and gave valuable wool. Because of their qualifications camels largely extended even in stepper regions of Azerbaijan where semi nomadic form of cattle breeding dominated.

Commodity of animal-breeding was developed in mountainous regions of Azerbaijan. There had been sheep, goats, cows, buffalos, oxen, horses, domestic birds in peasantry economy. Fishery and hunting were the support for agriculture.

Citycenters of craft and trade. The period of Caliphate was the phase of prosperity of urban life in the country. At that time most cities of Azerbaijan were big settled areas, where were concentrated all types of medieval craft. Cities were the centers of both interior and foreign trade. If we take into account that Barda, Nakhchivan, Beylagan, Tabriz and Shamakha possessed more than 100 thousand settlers, then it became obvious that the development of cities happened for the reason of population growth being engaged in craft industry. There were mentioned the names of such cities as Ardebil, Mughan, Barda, Nakhchivan, Beylagan, Gabala, Shaki, Shamkir, Derbend (Bal al-Abvab.), Shabran, Shamakha, Qazaka and others in the sources informed us about the period of conquest of Azerbaijan by Arabs. Arabic authors of 9th – 10th centuries added the names of tens of cities and settled areas, which either existed or which location were being still unknown to this list.

The cities of Azerbaijan, examined by their sizes or roles that they played in socio-economic and political life of the country and could be divided into three cathegories.

Such cities, as Barda, Ganja, Beylagan and Derbend which were located on the most important transite ways of craft and trade, regarded to the first cathegory.

The cities, which simultaneously were the centers of developed craft and trade but differing from first ones were located far from major trade way and which were transited into essential military centers with castles and garrisons during Arabic reign included to the second cathegory. Shaki, Gabala, Nakhichivan, Ardebil, Amaras, Gardman are referred to this cathegory.

The third cathegory included the administrative centres of the biggest feudal properties-cities of village type.

In this period Barda which was called “The mother of Arran” and where the residence of caliph’s governors was situated, was the biggest city of not only Azerbaijan and but also the whole Caucasus. There lived about 100 thousand people here at that time. The bazaar of Barda, “Kurki” was one of the most prominent bazaars in the Middle East.

The most important city export was silk. Intersected trade and caravan ways in Barda, connected it with Derbend, Tiflis, Dabil, Ardebil and through these cities with northern, southern and eastern countries. There were imported various fabric, metal products, perfumery, fur and etc., also exported silk, silk clothes, cotton, carpets, oil, cattle, horses and so on through these ways.

One of the biggest cities of Azerbaijan, along with Barda was Gandja, which was the important craft-trade centre not only in the Caucasus but also in the Middle East. Gandja was one of the biggest cities of the East during Caliphate authority. Written materials testified that Gandja was an “essential city”, “possessed fortification, great cattle with high walls” and it was “the last forepast of Muslim world in frontiers”. That’s why, all rulers gave big essence to the strengthening of this city.

There were increased all types of craft in Gandja. Sources especially mentioned about the growing of silk and producing of silk  clothes here. There existed the development of black smith’s industry and it was a reason of producing of dishes and other items. As Gandja was one of the residences of the governor of Arran, there were concentrated lots of administrative institutions. There were located Sultan’s palace, feudal aristocracy.

There was given information about the essential city of Arran- Beylagan in the sources. It was also a big and strengthened city of its time. Archaeological revealing testified about the high level of economy, urban industry and craft in Beylagan.

The one of the most strengthened cities of Azerbaijan was Nakhichivan, which possessed big and durable walls. There were beautiful palaces, medreses, mosques and tombs in Nakhichivan. Local craftsmen produced clothes, carpets, bedspreads/ counterpanes, wood dishes made from Khalandj (iron tree) for interior and foreign markets.

There were developing lots of fields of urban craft, such as metal- making, silk-growing, carpet-making, weaving, pottery, jewelry-making, glass-making and etc. in Azerbaijan in 8th-10th centuries. At the result of archaeological excavations (in Gandja, Gabala, Minghachavir, Beylagan- Orenqala, Derbend, Baku, Shabran, Shamakha and others) in the cities of Arabic period there were revealed items, referring to all spheres of medieval craft industry. Major prosperity was examined in ceramic industry of dishes, constructive bricks which were exported to other cities and regions of the country. Jewelry making was also developed at that time. For instance, jewelry-makers of Baylagan applied hard techniques in this industry.

Tabriz was the strengthened city and possessed much stronger defensive system than other cities of Azerbaijan. There were always settled foreign merchants in Tabriz, since this city produced all kinds of Middle Ages items. There was located one of the state mint in Tabriz.

As it was known, ancient ways of world transite trade of the Eastern countries with the Northern Europe crossed across Azerbaijan. And during the 8th-10th centuries these ways through the shore of Caspian Sea, Absheron peninsula and Derbend passage went to the lands of khazars and farther.

The cities of Shirvan, especially Shamakha was well-known with its silk-growing and silk products. Silk and silk clothes were exported to other cities of Caucasus and Middle Eastern countries. Silk was exported from Shirvan to northern countries. Derbend was not only the most important castle but also there was weaved carpets and carpets products, produced cotton, flex, cotton and flex products in Derbend which this city was famous with. Sources gave evidences about natural resources, agricultural products, products of craft and trade in the cities of Shirvan. For instance, Arabic and pension geographers and historians of the 9th-10th centuries informed us about social-economic life of medieval Baku in details and they especially mentioned that “Baku is famous with its white oil”.

Archaeological excavations revealed the structure of medieval Derbend, which was constituted from two parts: bulwark (kuhendiz) and the city itself (Shahristan). Bulwark of Naringala possessed essential place in the complex of defensive settlements of Derbend. Materials of archaeological excavations showed that there was intensive urban life, prosperous craft and trade in Derbend during 8th-10th centuries. In the most valuable historical work, “Tarikh-at-Bab” was mentioned “administrative building” in Derbend, where city aristocracy sweared to the governor-Amir. The assemblies of city aristocracy were organized there.

Feudal city was closely connected to rural settlements, agrarian regions which supplied it with agricultural products and industrial raw materials. City supplied rural settlements with craft items, although part of the population of Baylakan, Shamakha and Derbend were engaged in suburban industry. There were wine-yards and fruit gardens around cities.

There were built lots of biggest buildings – palaces (gasr) and kyoshks where aristocracy, urban nobility and grandees (buzurgan) lived.

The cities of Shirvan were famous with the production of specific products. So, Baylakan was well-known with candies and ceramic dishes, Baku with oil and salt, Shamakha with raw silk and silk clothes, Derbend with saffron and flex clothes. Along with interior trade, the cities of Shirvan exported oil, salt, kirmiz (mader), saffron, raw silk and silk clothes, carpet and carpet items, ceramic, glass, copper and wood dishes, weapons, jewelry, agricultural products and fruits exported for foreign markets. Nearnence to the sea and the river of Kur assisted to the development of fishery. Various kind of fish were exported to foreign countries.

Great amount of coins, revealed in the cities of Azerbaijan at the result of archaeological excavations testified about the development of commodity-monetry relations and improvement of the cities of Azerbaijan in 8th-10th centuries. Improvement of producing powers in the part of sole Arabic empire determined the increasement of the number of cities, most of which were trade-craft centres and connected points of international trade relations.

There were preserved Sasanid drahmas and Byzantine miliarises in the monetary of Azerbaijan for some period even after the conquest of this country by Arabs. First Arabic coin with the name of the founder of Omeyyads dynasty referred to the year of 660, but these coins were not enlarged at that time. Circumstances were changed after the monetry reform of Abdulmelik (685-705), when gold Byzantine and silver Sasanid coins were replaced by gold Arabic dinars and silver Arabic dirhams.

During the Arabic reign mint of coins was implemented in the centres of social-economic and military-political life of the country, such as Barda, Derbend, Ardebil, then in several restored or reestablished cities-Shamakha, Baylagan, Gandja, Shamkir.

Structure of governance and social structure of the urban population. The examined period coincides to the phase of the improvement of feudal relations in the Middle East, as well as in Azerbaijan. At that time, Middle Eastern city completely shaped its interior structure. Urban administrative institutions formed and improved in the period, when Azerbaijan was included to the compound of Arabic Caliphate. Seldjuk conquests and supremacy did not influence radically to social relations and the evaluation of cities.

Cities were the social economic and cultural centres of the country. Azerbaijan was the part of Middle Eastern society with its specifications.

Azerbaijan is referred to the regions with high urban culture. Suitable conditions of political and socio-economic life in Azerbaijan in 8th-10th centuries assisted to the shape, facilitation and development of cities, especially those, which were the centres of separate vilayets. Among those cities were Gandja, Derbend, Baku, because their economic development reached to the highest level. This feature assisted to the urbanization of these cities too.

Main part of the urban population were constituted by craftsmen and tradesmen. The highest stage of urban population in Azerbaijan was constituted by big land-owners, merchants, clergy, administrative officers. Inherited feudal land-owners were also included to the stage of land owners. Another class of feudal in Azerbaijan was clergy, which was included to the stage of theologians and lawmakers. Being influence class to the cities, highest clergy regulated religious norms of the life of urban population. Local feudals tried to utilize from the influence of clergy not only on wide ordinary population but also on the various representatives of state authority. Clergy played some role in social life of cities: trails (as gazies) were concentrated in their hands.

Another group of urban nobility was military aristocracy-amirs and commanders of military garrison. Representatives of this group, leaning on military troops played significant role in the system of urban administration. Because of their services, they obtained land properties on the rights of iqta from their suzerain.

So, urban nobility, which was consisted of big land-owners, clergy and military aristocracy lived in cities, possessed large lands and other various properties.   Possessed big amount of financial potential, representatives of these classes occupied leading posts in administrative system of urban governance.

Big merchants were also included to the urban aristocracy. They possessed bazaars, caravan-palaces, craft workshops also occupied essential posts in urban administration.

Amils were engaged in gathering taxes in the cities. They controlled big profits with the amount of hundred thousands dinars and part of this profit was appropriated by the officers. The obligations of small control officer, nazir were consisted of counting the profits, coming from rural settlements and industry, as well as salt production and oil springs. An officer, controlling the accounting of troops and military salary was called arid.

Mirab was engaged in provision of city with water and division of this water resources among urban population. He also controlled the construction of irregative canals, cleaning of springs as well.

The majorest class of urban population were craftsmen, who were exploited by feudal owners of cities that owned quarry and craft workshops. Craftsmen were belonged to the depended part of population – raiyyats. Representatives of various spheres of craft industry, related with architecture, were architect, bricklayer, engineer, military leader. These privileges were given to bricklayers and architectors, who possessed significant place among masters and had better conditions in social relations than other mass of this category of craftsmen.

Craftsmen of Azerbaijan had their own organizations, the most extended one among them was akhi. Akhi means “my brother” in Arabic. Main part of these organizations was constituted by craftsmen and urban poverty, which found the best form of the unit of their power for the struggle against feudal aristocracy in the organizations of akhi.

There lived dervishes and poorer stratum of urban population in cities, whose main part was constituted by landless and destroyed peasants, coming to the cities for temporary living. They were in a lower stratum of social structure among urban population and these peasants played an important role in struggle and uprisings, happened in cities.

Structure of urban administration and financial apparate were entirely changed during the Arabic reign in Azerbaijan. In the period of Abbasid reign, there was established stable administrative and fiscal structure, subordinated to centralized power. As a rule, namely the representatives of aristocracy, including muslim clergy, which simultaneously were big land owners, who protected their interests occupied administrative posts at that time.

Formation and creation of administratives in the cities of Azerbaijan, especially the institutions of police, trial (court) and other functions was directed to the exploitation of labour population of cities and accomplishment of treasury by the taxes.

Major administrative institutions, which observed the implementation of rules in cities were the post of rais – “city head”, shikhna – chief of “city police”, muhtasib – responsible man for property relations of urban population, such as payment of taxes on time, implementation of testament as well as patronomy and gazi – officer and head court in the city and its around. The post of gazi was occupied by the man, “who was religious, kind, and justice in the leading issues of shariat”. Qazi was appointed by central administration.

Namely, representatives of prominent families, which possessed enough authority in the city were appointed to this post. The appointment of gazi was subdued by the order, read in mosque and which was the court authority of gazi extended by.

About Ismayil bey Zardabli

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