Home / Azerbaijan / Socio-economic and cultural life of Azerbaijan during 11th & 12th centuries

Socio-economic and cultural life of Azerbaijan during 11th & 12th centuries

Agriculture. Suitable natural conditions assisted to the development of socio-economic life of Azerbaijan population. It was obvious that namely in 12th century, the rare military invasions and stabilized circumstances provided the population to engage in arable-farming and other fields of agriculture. In arable-farming, there was applied irrigation as well as restored old irregative systems in Mil and Mughan steps, in Shirvan, Nakhichevan, Karabakh, Tabriz and other regions.

There were planted rice, barley, wheat among corns, cotton, saffron, flax and madder among technical ones in Azerbaijan. The craftsmen of Azerbaijan made clothes, bedspreads, different dresses from the cotton and raw silk, which were planted in Arran, Ganja, Barda, Maragha, Ordubad, Beylagan, Shaki, Shamakha and in the lands of the shore of the Kur. These products were required in local markets as well as they were exported to lots of countries of the East and the West.

At that time, gardening, market-gardening and growing grapevines were much more spread fields of agriculture. The sources testify about the development of gardening in Azerbaijan, especially in Tabriz, Barda, Ordubad. There were gathered harvests of pumpkin, water-melon and cucumber from irregative lands. The melons of Shamkir and grapes of Nakhichevan were much more famous.

Cattle-breeding continued to be the leading field of agriculture. There were 3 types of cattle-breeding in Azerbaijan as before-settled, nomadic and semi-nomadic. Settled and nomadic cattle-breeding were characteristic to the big horned cattle, but nomadic and semi-nomadic cattle-breeding were characteristic for small horned cattle-especially for sheel-breeding. The summer and winter pastures of Goycha, Shirvan, Savalan, foothills of the Great and Minor Caucasus, steps of Mughan and Nil were utilized for the fostering of small horned cattle.

Natural conditions of Azerbaijan assisted to the development of horse-breeding and camel-breeding in Azerbaijan. The population were engaged in fishery in the shore of the Caspian Sea and big rivers and the people of foothill regions and forest areas were engaged in bee keeping.

Cities. Craft and trade. The period of 11th and 12th centuries were the phase of prosperity of urban life in Azerbaijan. In this period the cities of the country were great settlements, where were concentrated all spheres of craft. The cities were both the centres of interior and foreign trade. In 12th century the cities of Azerbaijan – Tabriz, Maragha, Ardebil, Urmiya, Salmas, Khoy, Nakhichevan, Beylagan, Ganja, Derbend, Shabran, Shamakha, Shamkir and Baku were in the period of prosperity. Especially, the stabilization of political circumstances, deepening of feudal relations and enlargement of trade- monetary exchange assisted to the increasment and development of the cities.

If we take into account that, the number of population in these cities were more than 100 thousand people, who were engaged in the different fields of craft and demanded the emigration of rural population to the cities, then it was obvious that why the cities were developing.

The biggest city of the examined phase was Ganja, which was the most important trade-craft centre not only in Caucasus but in the whole Middle East. Ganja was “the last forepost of the Muslim world” and that is why all rulers gave big essence to the strengthening of this city.

In the required time Ganja was able to resist to the enemy with lots of soldiers. There were improved all fields of craft in Ganja, but the sources especially mentioned about the growing of silk and producing of silk clothes, which were much more differed from other regions with their quality. The existence of iron and copper mines in the nearance of Ganja assisted to the development of blacksmith’s industry, the producing of dishes and other items.

Ganja, which was the capital of Shaddadids for some period, then the residences of seldjukid governor in Arran and the heir of the throne, Muhammed Tapar, as well as kharezmShah Jalaladdin Mankburnu was the one of the biggest cities of the Middle East in the examined period. The city was damaged at the result of the earthquakes of September 30, 1139, when about 150-200 thousand people died and at the result of the destruction of Kapaz mountain, there was shaped the lake of Goy-gol.

The one of the fortificated cities of that time was Nakhichevan, the capital of Eldenizids. The city possessed big and durable walls and bulwark too. The mausoleum of Momina-Khatun and the tomb of prominent local sheikh, Yusuf ibn Kuseyr constructed the city by architecture Adjami ibn Abubakr and gave there special feanty.

The one of the biggest and essential cities of Azerbaijan- was Beylagan, located in the intersection of important trade and military- strategic ways. The population of the city consisted of more than 40 thousand people and they were engaged in more than 30 kinds of various professions.

There were produced approximately all kinds of craft makings in Tabriz, which was the capital of great atabey, Shamsaddin Eldeniz and his successors. There were constructed several medreses and lots of houses here.

Shamakha, Baku, Derbend and Shabran were the centres of trade, craft and culture too. Many kinds of craft-metallurgy, silk-growing, weaving, carpet making, pottery and jewelry, glass making, working with stone, wood and leather reached to their high level in the cities of Azerbaijan. In the 11th and at the beginning of 13th centuries ceramic producing of glazed dishes, bricklayers, which were exported to other countries was much more developed. Jewellry also improved at that time. Azerbaijanian jewelry makers applied diffult measures in the working with gold. The masters of the glass making achieved great success in this period too.

According to archaeological materials and source information there were counted more than 30 spheres of craft and professions in Azerbaijan. They were pottery, jewelry, construction, glass-making, silk- growing, weaving and other fields.

Cities approximately always were divided into quarters, which were called according to the professions of people, who lived here.

There were built lots of big buildings-palaces (qasr) and kyoshks, where lived the nobility, urban aristocracy and grandee. Sources mention about the “big amount of market areas” in the cities. According to sources, during the 11th-12th centuries there were lots of markets in Shirvan, where were sold all kinds of products, fruits and makings of craftsmen.

Increased demand to the products of arable-farming, animal breeding and craft, which was related with the increasement of the number of population in the cities, deepening of trade-monetary exchange and the crossing of major caravan ways through the territory of Azerbaijan assisted the prosperity of interior and exterior trade of the country in examined phase. Azerbaijan possessed trade relations with India, Chine, with the countries of Central Asia, Egypt, Italy, Scandinavia and Kiev Rus. There were exported silk, wool and cotton clothes, dress, copper and ceramic dishes, dry fruits, shaffroon, rice, fish and oil from Azerbaijan to these countries. The trade was implemented in all days of the week in the markets. The enlargement of trade amount was related with valuable metals also increasement of monetry and minting of local coins with the name of the governors of Shirvan and the atabeys of Eldenizids.

Social relations. The examined period coincided to the period of improvement of feudal relations in the Middle East, also in Azerbaijan.

The cities completely finished the formation of their interior structure and urban administrative institutions were shaped in the coherence with the increasing level of socio-economic relations. Seldjukid conquests did not radically influenced to the social relations and to the process of evolution of cities. Cities had been and countinued to be the centres of social-economic and cultural life of the country. Azerbaijan was the part of the Middle Eastern Muslim world with all of its specific feauters.

There were existed several types of land ownership in Azerbaijan in 11th-12th centuries. The lands, which belonged to Shah, Sultan, the family of the governor and the members of ruling dynasty were called khass (“tac” in Eldenizids). The state lands were called divan, private properties of big feudals-mulk, the lands, which were used by rural community were called public lands. The special cathegory of land- tenure was iqta, which was given to the governors for their certain military or civil services. The lands of iqta might be village, city or even whole area, but if land-owner was able to sell, to give as gift or to pass its own property by generation, the owner of iqta-iqtadar did not have such rights, he was able only to utilize from the profits of his property.

In curtain occasions (the death or betray of governor, absence of his successor and other issues) the lands of iqta were partly or completely returned to the content of divan lands.

The lands, which were utilized by mosques, clergy or in charity aims were called vaqf. Vaqf was governed by mutavallies and the profits of these lands were wasted to the need of spiritual men, to the aid of poor families, widows and orphans.

Peasants, which were the main stratum of taxables constituted the essential part of the population. Peasants, who lived in the lands of Treausary, feudals and vaqfs were called raiyyats. The cathegory of peasants, who did not have own lands, own labour tools and who worked in the lands of landowners were called akers.

Hard feudal tax system exploited the peasants. The land tax- kharac was collected with money and natura-agricultural products; there was collected ushr from the 1/10 of profit from peasants too. There was paid separate tax-khakk to the Treasury for the using of pastures. Non-muslim population paid cizya.

There was collected the tax of alaf from peasants for the provision of feeding of feudal horses, which stayed in villages. Peasants paid the one of the heaviest taxes-nuzl for feudal provisions, takhakkumat-duty (bac) and badraka for the security of roads. So, there were collected about 40 kinds of taxes from the peasants which caused to their disagreement and uprisings.

The major stratum of the urban population were craftsmen, who were exploited by the feudals-the governors of cities, owners of karkhanas and craft work-shops. There existed craft organizations in Azerbaijan and the members of these organizations were called akhies (“brothers”). Although akhi were closely related with craftsmen, merchantmen and the poor people of cities, they were not in professional organizations and presented only social groups, unions and brotherhood.

There were oftenly arisen antifeudal uprisings of craftsmen and poor population of the city under the religious flag, which demanded the facilitation of tax system and social justice.

So the population of Azerbaijan consisted of dependants and nobility, which specially lived in cities. Urban aristocracy, which was constituted by big landowners, clergy and military aristocracy possessed big land and other properties. The representatives of this cathegory, who had huge financial potential occupied leading posts in administrative apparate of the state and urban governance.

Big merchantmen, who possessed market lines, caravan-seraies and craft workshops were also included to urban aristocracy of Azerbaijan. They also occupied major posts in the governance of the country and in urban administration too. The development of craft and trade in the cities stimulized the improvement of trade and trade- monetry relations in the economy of Shirvan state and the state of Azerbaijan Atabeys.

Urban administration. The major executive posts, formed by central power and for the governing of cities there were the posts of qazi, mukht asib, reis and shikhna.

The administrative posts in the cities were subdued by the representatives of nobility, as well as clergy.

Namely those men who were “spiritual, kind, fair, who knew shariat issues of Musilms well” could occupy the post of gazi. The representatives of rich families, which possessed enough authority in the city were appointed to this post, due to implement their functions too. Gazi controlled the religious estates, realized control over mosques and servants of religious estates, appointed imams and controlled the activity of vaqfs along with his main functions.

Mukhtasibs, who were appointed from the highest clergy also implemented and controlled the norms of shariat along with qazis.

Mukhtasibs had a right to intervene to the property relations of urban settlers-controlled the payment of obligations, implementation of tastement, mortgage-obligations, the implementation of partronomy functions.

Military nobility, who lived specially in cities and which possessed big properties on the right of iqta, attained to their appointment in palace and administrative posts. More spread urban institution, which was implemented by military aristocracy, was shikhna.

Shikhna was appointed from the line of emirs, who had military practice and those, who obeyed to suzerain. In required occasions shikhna came to the help of the ruler with his troops and participated in various hostilities. Shikhna had to observe the order inside of city, prevented disorder, protected property and civil rights of citizens, provided security on ways. He aided to amil in the tax collection and secured him too.

There were appointed reises-head of the city, who represented the interests of local population in front of the governor of divan and the governor of the city, as well as secular court-from the line of big feudals- landowners, who lived in the cities.

Reis, who was the real supporter of the central power in the areas prevented all disagreement and uprisings, which was arisen by the urban settlers that resisted to the tax collectors and did not want to obey to central authority. Reis, as the representative of administrative apparate in cities, controlled the activity of other officers-shikhnas, mukhtasibs, even the activity of shariat court.

One of the duties of reis was the organization of all kinds of meetings and celebrations in honour of ruler or grandee. Reises participated in various embassies, where they implemented the obligation of the representatives of throne or defended the right of citizens of cities. Such embassies were organized during hostilities, when the city and its population became under the danger of conquest, which namely reises tried to prevent. Reis relied on the whole apparate of urban administration-naib, shikhna, mukhtasib, sahib-kharac and others- in his extended activity.

Culture. The 12th century is considered the “golden age” in the history of cultural development of the medieval Azerbaijan. The poetry school of Azerbaijan, which gave prominent representatives of literature to the world shaped and reached to its prosperity in this period. There were constructed medreses, mosques and palaces in the cities of the country. In medreses and quarter mosques, there functioned schools, where were taught logics, maths and other sciences along with shariat and eastern languages. The main corn of the pupils was constituted by the children of feudal, clergy, merchants and rich craftsmen. There lived and created prominent scientists-people, originally from Azerbaijan in the cities of the East in that period. Among them, we could count the names of Makka ibn Ahmed al-Bardai, Said al-Azdi, Abdulaziz ibn Hasan al-Bardai, Abdulhasan Yaqub ibn Musa al-Ardebili, Seid ibn Armul Bardai, Abubekr Hussein ibn Ali Yazdani, Ahmed ibn Suleiman Tabrizi, Mir-Hussein Shirvani, Abulvaf Muhammed Marandi, Bahmanyar ibn Marzban, Khatib Tabrizi, who obtained fame in many regions of science and medicine.

Astronomyst Fazil Faridaddin Shirvani was engaged in astronomy more than 30 years, he dedicated his life to the study of sky items and compiled several grids of celestial sky.

Bahmanyar ibn Marzban (died in 1066) played an essential role in the history of philosophy thought of medieval Azerbaijan. His works on logics and philosophy-“Book about (feelings) happiness and glad”, “Tractate about the science of methaphysics” were popular in the whole East, they were copied and kept in many universities and palace libraries.

In that period, there lived and created prominent representative of philosophy, lyrics, literature studies-Khatib Tabrizi (1030-1108). Abubekr Muhammed Shirvani and Muhammed ibn Abdulla Bardai became famous in Muslim law.

There were constructed famous monuments with different characters in bigger economic, political and cultural centres of Azerbaijan-Shamakha, Baku, Ganja, Nakhichevan, Baylagan, Tabriz, Maragha, Urmiya and etc. by prominent representatives of Azerbaijan architecture. Among these monuments, the defensive walls of Baku, Shamakha, Beylagan, Ganja, Tabriz, Maragha, Absheron towers-in Mardakan, Nardaran, Ramana, Qiz qalasi (Maiden Tower) in Baku, the minaret of “Sima-qala” in Icheri Sheher in Baku, khanagha of Pir Hussein, mausoleum of Momina Khatun and Yusif ibn Kuseyr in Nakhichevan , the bridges of Khudaferin and Culfa, fortress walls in Gulustan and Kale-i Bughurd near Shamakha, Alinja and Organgala in Nakhichevan were distinguished with their beauty. Blacksmith Ibrahim (Ganja), bricklayers Muhammed Abubekr oghlu (Baku) and Abu Mausin Musa oghlu (Urmiya), architectures Amiraddin Masud and Adjami Abubekr oghlu (Nakhichevan) were famous in the cities of Azerbaijan and in the Middle East.

The oral and written forms of literature continued to develop in this period. There were much more enlarged fairy tales and religious legends among urban and settled population, ashugs-ozans were the participants of celebrities both in palaces and tents in summer and winter houses in the mountains. There were shaped the elements of myfology in oral literature, but the written literature was constituted namely by scenes from real life.

In 11th-12th   centuries there were spread the forms of court literature-ode, qaside, rubai, enlogies in Azerbaijan. Persian-spoken poetry school of Azerbaijan, which lived its prosperity beginning of the 12th century was famous with such prominent masters as Qatran Tabrizi, Nizami Gandjavi, Abul-Ula Gandjavi, Afzaladdin Khagani, Feleki Shirvani, Mujiraddin Beylagani, Mehseti Gandjavi and so on.

The one of the prominent representative of court poetry was Qatran Tabrizi (1010-1080), who reached to his fame in the palaces of Shaddadids in Ganja and Nakhichevan. The prominent court poet of ShirvanShah, Abul-Ula Gandjavi (died in 1159) got the title of “padiShah among poets” for his deep cognition and poetic capability.

Feleki Shirvani (1108-1146) also served in the palace of ShirvanShahs for some period. He achieved fame and success as astronomyst as well.

The social-moral rubaies of talented poetess-Mehseti Gandjavi was known not only in Azerbaijan, but also in the whole Middle East.

The prominent poet of Shirvan and well-known representative of Azerbaijan literature of the 12th century, Afzaladdin Khagani (1120- 1199) was born in Shamakha, fluently spoke in Persian and Arabic, managed the origin of linguistics, philosophy, logic, astrology, maths, law and shariat. He created such mignificant works as “Ruins of madain”, “Habsiyya”(“Prison elegy”), “Tohvat-ul-Irageyn”, “Gift of two Iragians” and others.

Another prominent representative of Pleiades, which shaped “Golden age” of Azerbaijan culture was “one of the classics of world poetry”, genuine Nizami Gandjavi (1141-1209), whose real name was Ilyas Yusifoghlu. Nizami lived, studied and created in Ganja till the end of his life and rejected the invitations about settling in the palaces of many   rulers. Nizami Gandjavi who possessed great talent and knowledge of science and literature, created immortal collection, called “Khamsa” (“Pentad”)-“Treasure of mystery”, “Khosrov and Shirin”, “Leyli and Majnun”, “Seven beauties” and “Isgendername”. There were reflected the urban life in the poems of Nizami: in his first work- “Treasure of mystery” the author told about the life of urban people from various professions in poetic form. Creative heritage of the prominent thinker represents great essence and continued to be predmet of study among literature-studies, the historians of philosophy, ethnographers and etc.

Music also continued to develop in 11th-12th centeries. There were used from stringed, wind and percussion instruments in the events of various character. There was improved the fields of applied art- ornamentation of clothes, working with wood, glass, carpet-weaving, making of jewellery items and decorations in the examined period.

About Ismayil bey Zardabli

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