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Ottoman – Safavids wars in the first half of the 17th century

At the beginning of the 17th century, when Azerbaijan nation conducted struggle against Turks, the Ottoman Empire were in the period of economic and socio-political crisis. The power of Ottomans weakened in Azerbaijan at that time and the Safavids state under the reign of Shah Abbas I gradually strengthened. Shah Abbas I, utilized from the thirteen-year reconcilation with amans in order to accurate machinery of state and strengthen the internal circumstances of the state. Only after the realization of measures and strengthening of the positions of empire in its Eastern frontiers, Shah administration attacked to Turkey in September, 1603.

Shah Abbas I, defeated Sheybanid governor Dinmuhammed khan on July 29, 1599 and subordinated Maverannahr. His campaign of 1602, to the East and Balkh ended with failure, but the major aim of Shah Abbas I was to return Azerbaijan and other territories of South Caucasus to his state.

In order to decrease military oppression of Ottoman Empire over the Central Europe, distract her forces to the East, European countries instigated Shah Abbas I to this campaign. Even before the peace treaty of 1590, with Turkey Abbas I, sent his ambassador Khadi bey to Moscow, in order to achieve the organization of mutual alliance against Ottomans in Caucasus. Shah even suggested to the tsar of Moscow to cede Derbend and Baku instead of anti-Ottoman alliance.

The campaign of Safavids troops to Azerbaijan began on September 14, 1603 and on September 28, they approached to Tabriz.

When the troops, commanded by Abbas I approached to the city, Tabriz population rose against Ottoman invaders. Rebels from the  environs of the city entered to the city before the troops and occupied the authority. City-dwellers immediately began uprising. Shah troops, which utilized from the uprising of Tabriz people, immediately began the besiege of city fortresses, where Ottoman soldiers hid and had to conceal soon.

After the liberation of Tabriz, Shah moved to the West, in order to meet the Ottoman troop that came from Salmas. The battle between these sides occurred near the location of Sufiyan and the Ottoman troop was defeated. The captivated Ottoman military commander, Ali pasha inclined the besieged Ottoman garrison in Tabriz fortress to conclude peace. So, at the result of this, the destiny of Southern regions of Azerbaijan were solved. There were appointed new governors to the liberated regions, after that Shah’s troops moved to the North. Culfa and Nakhichevan were occupied without fighting. Small Ottoman garrison in Nakhichevan decided not to resist. The governer of Maku, Mustafa bey Mahmudlu also accepted the authority of Safavids.

At that time, Ordubad rose against the Ottoman Empire after Tabriz; its population was also exploited by Ottoman occupation. Local settler, called Hadji, known as “Kasab” (butcher) organized anti Ottoman uprising with Bayandur, when he learnt about approach of Safavids troops to the city. Population of Ordubad supported them as well. Hadji and Bayandur, who occupied city and its environce, captured the fortress of the city “by the vehicle of the settlers of vilayet”. But, the rebels lost their union after the victory and were slaughtered by Ottoman detachment, which were sent to suppress the uprising by Sherif pasha, commandant of Iravan fortress. All of these events assisted to the prime vezir of Safavids state, Khatem bey Ordubadi to ask Shah to liberate the Ordubad population from the payment of all state taxes and this request was accepted.

Safavids troops had to capture the major and most important Iravan fortress that was strongly strengthened by Ottomans. On November 16, 1603, the besiege of Iravan fortress began; the fortress was defended by 10 thousandth garrison and durable fortification. Abbas I, strengthened his artillery by the means of weapons, which were brought from Tabriz and made there. Capable population was also attracted to the construction of fortifications around the fortress and these people participated in military operations.

The hostilities of Kizilbashes continued the whole winter of 1603/1604. They were able to occupy the Iravan fortress only in the summer of 1604 – the 8th of June. The governance of Chukhur-Saad region with the centre in Iravan, was given to Amirqulu khan Kadjar, Maqsud Sultan Kengerli was oppointed the governor of Nakhichevan.

Even after the re-occupation of Iravan, large and rich regions of Azerbaijan – Karabakh, Sheki, Shirvan continued to be under the subordination of Ottomans. Shah Abbas I understood well that he should delay the capture of these regions, as he had to encounter with the general troops of Ottomans and fight with them; namely this battle would be able to solve the destiny of Azerbaijan and the whole South Caucasus.

So, Shah ordered to devastate and move the people from the left shores of the river of Araz. The impulsive evacuation of big amount of people – Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Georgians and Kurds – began with this event as well. This measure of Shah Abbas, which was implemented with cruelty inflicted great damage to material and people resources of the region. There were emigrated tens of people to Isfahan, Mazandaran and other regions of Iran. The devastation of Western regions was real disaster for Azerbaijan nation and it was kept in the memory of people as “great surgun”.

The realization of such cruel measure pursued other goals along with military – strategic aim – so that Safavids court wanted to move the trade of silk from Culfa, which was the centre of transite trade to Isfahan, Shah Abbas aimed to liberate the trade of silk from the guard of Ottoman Sultan and his officers, who brought big amount of duty from the goods by the vehicle of this measure, as well as he brought the goods much nearer to the ports of Persian Gulf, where they were exported to European countries from. The population of Culfa were settled in Isfahan and the population of Nakhichevan – to Dizaks circult of Karabakh. Besides of it, most part of population was sent to the empty lands of Mazandaran, personal mulk of Shah Abbas I and the craftsmen – to Isfahan, in order to provide the economic development of the new capital of Shah.

At that time, Shah, who was in Nakhichevan , heard that Ottoman troops had come to Salmas. The number of the troop of enemy reached to 100 thousand men. The goal of the commander, Sinan pasha Cigal- oghlu was to occupy Tabriz, move to Ardebil and unite with the troops of Shirvan governor, Mahmud pasha (the son of Cigal-oghlu) through passing Astara and Talish.

The general battle between the sides occurred on November 7, 1605, near the environs of Sufiyan. Ottomans were defeated. Cighal-oghlu survived by escaping to Diyarbekir, where he died soon. Kizilbashes obtained big amount of weapons and military trophies.

Despite of the starvation, which began in the winter of 1605/1606, Abbas I entered Karabakh after the victoy over Sinan pasha Cigal-oghlu and began the besiege of Ganja fortress. The besiege of the city continued about 4 monthes. Ottoman garrison resisted good but, finally, Shah’s troops broke the resistance of Ottomans and on July 5, 1606 captured the Ganja fortress. As a reply to the Ottoman resistance, Safavids troops slaughtered the whole garrison, constituted from 2,5 thousand soldiers. The governance of Karabakh region was given to Muhammed khan Ziyadoghlu Kadjar.

Shah’s army, which entered to Shirvan on January 9, 1607, encircled Shamakha, but at that time Shah Abbas heard about the uprising of population of Baku and Derbend. The uprising was led by the part of city aristocracy, “which was able to attract the population to its side”. Chronicler mentioned that, the population of Baku obliged to hurry to rose/revolt against Ottomans, as they learnt that, the commandant of the city knew about the uprising. The organizers of uprising “attacked to commandant and his residence”, captured all his officers. Shah, who learnt about the achievement of Baku settlers, rewarded them with “valuable presents and soyurgals”.

Derbend fortress – Narinqala was occupied in the beginning of March, 1607. The enemy was defeated by the united attempts of Shah’s troops and local population. Commandant of the fortress, Hasan pasha Gizir-oghlu gave its keys to Shah. So, there was put end to the Ottoman supremacy in Derbend. The Derbend uprising happened both in February and in the beginning of March of 1607. Rustam khan Kaytagsky was dismissed by Shah and the governance of Derbend was given to Chirag Sultan Ustaclu.

The storm of Shamakha began on June 2, 1607. The confrontation between the sides continued for whole week. Ottoman garrison of the city put their guns down only in the evening of 27th of June. Abbas I slaughtered the Ottoman troops and the governance of Shirvan was given to Zulfugar khan Karamanlu.

So, the first phase of Safavids – Ottoman wars for the re- occupation of Azerbaijan was over with the complete victory of Shah Abbas I. Although Ottoman troops again conquered Tabriz after four years, i.e. in 1611/1612, there became obvious that, both sides were ready to conclude peace. This peace was concluded in Serab, in 1612, but the issue about the frontiers of possessions wasn’t solved because of the death of the commander of Ottoman army, Murad pasha.

On October, 1613, Shah Abbas began to a new campaign to North Azerbaijan and Georgia. The conquests of Abbas in the Caucasus disturbed the Ottoman court. Sultan Ahmed ignored the peace treaty of 1612 and decided to direct great forces to Azerbaijan. Military operations began in the spring of 1616. Ottoman army, commanded by great vezir of the power, Muhammed pasha invaded the borders of Azerbaijan. This army directed from Erzurum straight to Tabriz, on the way, they turned to the North and besieged Iravan (in the August of 1616). Abbas managed to strengthen the defence of the fortress and at the expence of it could resist to the besiege of hostile forces, which amount reached to 100 thousand.

Long period of besiege did not resulted successfully. Finally, bored Ottoman army, which confronted with epidemic and starvation began to retreat.

In the spring of 1618, new Ottoman military commander Khalil pasha entered to Azerbaijan and directed to Tabriz. The troops of Crimea tatars with the amount of 15 thousand men commanded by khan, Canibey Geray also participated in this campaign. Kizilbash troops, commanded by Garchigay khan left Tabriz and evacuated whole population.

By the request of Canibey Geray and other military commanders, Khalil pasha decided to confront with the major forces of Shah’s troops in the battle. So, with this aim 35 choosen soldiers of Ottoman army and 15 thousand tatar cavalry united under the command of Hasan pasha, the beylerbey of Erzurum. General battle between Crimea – Ottoman and Shah’s armies took place in the region of Serab, on the plain between Areshtaban and Samansaray, in the location of Siniq Korpu. Ottomans and tatars were defeated and Sultan’s court accepted to conclude new peace agreement.

New peace agreement was compiled and signed in Marand, in September of 1618 and in the September of 1619 was completely confirmed by Ottoman palace.

The violater of peace treaty of 1618 was Safavids side. So that, Ottoman Empire was in deep economic and social crisis in the beginning of 20s of the 17th century. In the short time the throne was replaced by three Sultans. Abbas I, who utilized from this circumstance, captured Arabic Irag, Baghdad, holy places of Shiite trend – Kerbala, Nacaf, as well as Mosul and Kerkuk during 1622-1623s.

In 1624, there began uprising under the leadership of Georgy Saakadze in Georgia against Safavids. Shah’s detachments, which were directed against them were defeated and this event disturbed Shah Abbas I. But nevertheless, the uprising was suppressed, besides of it, kizilbashes won in the battle for Baghdad, which occurred in 1624-1626 against the army of new Ottoman Sultan, Murad IV. When Shah Abbas I died in January, 1629 the borders of Safavids state was approximately restored: the lands of Azerbaijan, Arabic Irag, Ahalsikh in Southern Georgia and the whole Eastern Georgia was included to the territory of the state and the successer and grandson of Abbas I, Shah Sefi I (1629- 1642) again moved his residence to Kazvin.

In the spring of 1634, the Shah’s court learnt about the preparation of Ottoman Sultan Murad IV to Azerbaijan for the re- conquest of losted territories. There was decided to concentrate major forces of Safavids troops to Tabriz. The invasion of Ottoman troops under the command of Murad IV from Erzurum began on August 8.

Soon, they began the besiege of the city of Iravan. The besiege did not continue long. The commander of the fortress garrison, Tahmasib – Kulu khan betrayed Isfahan palace and concealed. After that, Ottoman army directed to South-East, due to conquer Tabriz (September 1, 1634). The military commander of Iran army, Rustam khan received order of Shah about the evacuation of Tabriz population and devastation of the city. He implemented Shah’s order. Safavids army retreated as well.

Ottomans occupied Tabriz without fighting. Murad IV ordered to destruct the city. About this event, Turkish historian wrote: “Army (Ottoman) turned high buildings and great palaces into ruins: soldiers broke and carried window frames of all houses in order to utilize from them as wood. Most of these frames were made by great masters and were coloured into sky-blue/azune colour”. The absence of profusions, the coming winter and especially the threat of attack of Safavids army, which hadn’t enter to decisive battle yet, obliged Murad IV to retreat from Azerbaijan and return to his country (26th of September, 1634).

The decision of Shah’s assembly was to begin the re-occupation of Iravan fortress, where Ottomans put powerful garrison under the command of Murtuza pasha. Army, led by Shah, passed through Marand, Alamdarqarqar and the river of Araz, shaped camp in the region of Sharur. Finally, on Feburary 1, 1635, there was decided to begin the besiege of Iravan fortress, which they managed to occupy only on April 11, 1635.

These military operations/hostilities of fighting sides were the last military acts, realized in the territory of Azerbaijan. Finally, on May 17, 1639, in the location of Kasri-Shirin they concluded peace treaty, which put end to the Safavids – Ottoman wars in Azerbaijan. The arrangements of this treaty revised/repeated the arrangements of Sarab treaty of 1612. Arabic Irag was given to Ottomans, instead of it, Safavids obtained the eastern territories from the fortress of Zencir. Safavids promised not to invade Van, Kars and Ahalsikh. There was shaped/created peaceful period between two states in the period of 17th first quarter of 18 centuries. There began the restoration of cities as well as there were shaped condition for the restoration of destroyed economy.

In the context of relations with European countries, Shah Abbas,, who conducted active foreign policy, aimed to put end/lay down the Portugal supremacy over Persian Gulf and to reach to the Indian ocean. So that, at the end of the 16th century, the Ottoman empire, which took the control over trade way that passed through the territories of Caucasus, restored its ties with European countries. And the ways, which reached to Persian Gulf and Read Sea was under the control of Portugal and Spain. Shah Abbas I, who strengthened his relations with European monarches, did his best to solve issue of Persian Gulf, but European countries only tried to utilize from Shah against Ottoman empire. In his letter to Shah Abbas (on September 30, 1592) Pope Klement VIII called the Ottoman Empire their mutual enemy and did his best to conclude treaty/agreement with Shah, to incline him to the war against Ottomans. He promised to send fire-arms to Safavids. Shah Abbas, who prepared to the war for the returning of Caucasus, Khorasan and Persian Gulf, needed to the allies and their fire-arms.

After the reconcilation with Ottomans in 1612, Shah Abbas aimed to solve the issue about the properties of the Gulf, which spoiled the relations of Safavids and Spain. Even in 1601, Spanishmen were abandoned from Bahrein, and in 1614, the beylerbey of Fars, Imamqulu khan withdrew the spanishmen from Hambur. Shah Abbas closed ports of Persian Gulf for other countries, laid down the protectorate of Portugal over economic and diplomatic ties between states of the Gulf with Safavids.

Shah Abbas I successfully utilized from the strife among European countries, prevented their unification against Safavids.

Because of general interests of Shah diplomacy with England, Shah’s court was able to support strife among Spain, Portugal and England.

Shah did not hurry to occupy the Persian Gulf, because he did not possess military navy; that’s why, he sent Safavids embassy, led by Robert Sherly to Spain in 1615. Shah calmed king Filipp III (1598-1621) with this and prepared to the war for the re-occupation of Persian Gulf.

Robert Sherly visited London as well. He had to diplomatic and economic relations between England and Safavids. But his activity was unsuccessful here.

A year later, after the visit of Robert Sherly Don Garcia de Silva was sent from Spain to Safavids. He came here with the mission of reconciliation with Shah, returning of Bahrein and Hamburn, as well as gave the order of Filipp III to Safavids Shah about removing of other European merchants from Safavids state. But his negotiations did not resulted successfully, as Shah chose England as his ally. There was concluded agreement between England and Safavids in 1621, and in 1622 the Ost-Hind company promised to aid Shah Abbas for returning Ormuzd and Kesh. Instead of this, English merchants were liberated from custom duties, half of custom expences, obtained from trade in the Gulf was given to the Ost-Hind company. In the same year Imamkulu khan pressed Portugal garrison by the vehicle of English navy and returned Kesh and Ormuzd.

About Ismayil bey Zardabli

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