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Socio-economic life of Azerbaijan in 15th century

The 15th century was one of the difficult periods in the socio-economic life of Azerbaijan. There were existed such powerful states as ShirvanShahs, Karakoyunlu, Aghqoyunlu in the territory of the country in the examined period.

Although various fields of economy differed from one another in Azerbaijan in 15th century, the state order of these monarchies did not possess major differences. The state was governed by the feudal aristocracy of these dynasties, only the rulers of Karakoyunlu used the title of “padiShah”, Aghqoyunlu – the title of “Sultan” and ShirvanShahs – “Shah” as well. Tabriz was called the capital of the East and Shamakha – “the city of Shahs”.

The chief commander of troops was called amir-ul-umara (the emir of emirs). He was appointed from the members of dynasty or leading emirs and was considered the closest person to the sovereign.

After him was sadr-azam, who was called agha (movlana). He was rewarded with wide priveleges: he headed the clergy, governed vaqf properties, medrese, religious institutions and controlled the taxes, collected from them and law issues were subjected to him.

The next stage in state authority belonged to prime vezir. His major duty was the control over internal and foreign policy. After him was the post of sahibi-divan, who ruled the financial issues and was considered the keeper of stamp.

The provinces were governed by the suretaries of divan (clerical office), governors of districts, rulers of tuman and environs (nezds).

The army consisted of the troops of sovereign and the troops of the governors of provinces. As it was mentioned above, the chief commanders were from the feudal aristocracy. Private soldiers consisted of horsemen, who used guns. They were called tushandar, tirkendbend- okha-atan, khidmetchi.

The representatives of Bayandur tribe were distinguished in the state of Aghqoyunlu. Leading and supreme people even wore silk dresses and hats. Social structure of the troops consisted of tailors, blacksmith, merchants, doctors and etc.

The tribes of Karakoyunlu and Aghqoyunlu conducted seminomadic lifestock. The family members were with the troops.

Women wore pretty clothes, rode horse and were always next to their husbands.

It is essential to mention that military technique of feudal states of Azerbaijan was much weaker than other states. Prominent traveller from Venesia, Ambrodji Kontarine noticed in his diaries that the troops of Azerbaijan really possessed very primitive technique for that time: “The soldiers had axes, spears, sabres, shields and maces”. Kontarini also mentioned that there was included an army, consisted of 2 thousand pedestrian and 500 horseman to the personal Guards of Uzun Hasan. There were 60 thousandth troops in ShirvanShahs and 100 thousandth troops in Karakoyunlu and Aghqoyunlu, except of privileged Guards.

The rights of feudal, land ownership also changed a little bit in 15th century. Various fields of economic life increased inequally. This situation attracted the European travelers and was reflected in their notes too. The traveler from Venesia, Kontarine who was in Shirvan, in 1475, characterized the mulks of ShirvanShah in such way: “In the lands, between Shamakha and Derbend agricultural products were much cheaper, there were also planted highly qualified fruits”.

In the period of governance of first three ShirvanShahs from Derbend dynasty – Ibrahim I, Khalilullah I and Farrukh Yasar – Shirvan lived its most prosperous period of economic rise. It was connected with the internal stability of the state.

But, differing from Shirvan, in the southern territories of Azerbaijan the population was inflicted damage and confronted with starvation because of confrontation between Celairids and Karakoyunlu, destructive campaigns of Teymur. One of such events happened in 1413, when the price of bread was arisen.

The coming of Aghqoyunlu to the throne in 1468, a little bit assisted to stabilization of circumstances. Above-mentioned European diplomat, Kontarine noticed in his diary that despite of presence of all needed things for life in the country, there existed very high prices.

The basics of Azerbaijan economy was consisted of agriculture, where the leading place refered to arable-farming. Wide development of irregative canals and kergizes, the presence of lots of restored springs assisted to the improvement at arable-farming, wine-growing, cotton- growing, silk worm, gardening and market-gardening. Azerbaijan possessed wide international relations with many countries of the world and competed with them in the sphere of silk growing too.

The countries of the Middle East, Venesia, Bursa, Damascus, Kazan and Astrakhan were the markets for Shirvan. Azerbaijan was situated on the “silk way”. There were produced wonderful clothes, velvet and kelahgai – silk headscarfs for women. Russia was also the sale market for Azerbaijan in the export of silk. This field was the important economic factor in international trade.

Besides of Kontarine, Spanish merchant and traveler, Rui Qonsales de Klavikho also evaluated Shamakha in this sphere and described the relations of Venesia and Genuya merchants with the regions of Azerbaijan. The presence of various kinds of silk in Shamakha turned this city into the centre of silkworm. Even Klavikho wrote that silk clothes, gulebetins, kumashes, makings from cotton clothes, valuable stones and productions of urban craftsmen attracted the attendance of merchants from the countries of East, Europe and Rus to Shamakha bazaar.

Differing from silkworm, there were much more spheres in arable-farming, which possessed high economic preference. The population was engaged in the growing of grain, rice, barley, as well as the settled animal-breeding. There was mentioned in the evidences of Hamdullah Qazvini and Evleya Chelebi that here were cultivated seven kinds of cotton (Nakhichevan, Khoy, Shamakha, Tabriz and etc.). There were planted various kinds of apples, pears, grapes, abricots, peachs, pomegranates, watermelons, melons, cherry in Ardebil, Maragha, Shamakha and other cities of Azerbaijan. There were planted mulberry groves in order to the increasment of silkworm. The natural economy was much more increased. But there was extended marketable economy in environs of several cities (Tabriz, Shamakha, Baku, Ganja, Ardebil, Nakhichevan, Maragha). These were villages, where were cultivated silk for foreign trade.

As in other countries of the Middle East, there were existed five types of land ownership in Azerbaijan too. State lands – divani, dynasty lands – khass, personal inherited lands – mulk and the lands, given for the Muslim clergy were called vaqfs. Vaqf lands, which belonged to Muslim religious institutions were called – vaqfi – kheyri and the vaqfs, which referred to seyids, dervishes, sheikhs and holy places were called vaqf-al-akhli. Christian clergy also had its own land properties.

Even in pre-Mongolian period, there was existed conditional lands iqta, in Azerbaijan. This land was passed from generation to generation. There began to share inherited soyurgal (this word came from Mongolian soyurgamesh and meant “present”) in Mongolian period. Initial evidences about soyurgal were related to the second half of the 14th century, to the period of Celairid reign. The rights of the owner of soyurgal was higher than the rights of the owner of iqta. The owner of soyurgal possessed independent immunity, which provided him becoming rich. So, that, the owner of soyurgal could share small soyurgal s to this dependants and in this way he got rich and possessed his own dependants. Such owners did not want to obey to the central authority. There was largely practiced the share of inherited soyurgal to the military nobility, which was the pillar of Karakoyunlu and Aghqoyunlu troops. This factor became the basics of centrifugal tendencies. The central authority, which understood that began to struggle against the soyurgal system since the second half of the 15th century.

If in the second half of the 15th century, in the presence of Karakoyunlu, soyurgal continued to be given to the military-nomadic nobility, since the second half of the 15th century, in the period of Aghqoyunlu reign these properties were shared only to clergy and the representatives of highest civil beurocracy. PadiShahs Sultan Yaqub and Godek Ahmed did their best to begin the decisive fought against the soyurgal owners. Such tactics of central authority assisted to feudal revolts, which finally put the end to Aghqoyunlu state.

As in all feudal states, in Azerbaijan the feudals possessed inherited feudal mulks, which they could use, how they wanted, since these lands were their properties and passed from father and grandfathers as well. The peasants, who lived in these lands, were considered the peasants of the owner. Major part of private lands were given to peasants, who were the owners of “icma” (communal lands), that is why these lands were called “the lands of icma”. And a part of mulks was hired to peasants. In first case, the members of icma (community/commune) payed taxes together, but in the second occasion/case, everybody payed taxes on the ground of the land, presented him. Neverthless in both cases, the tax substituted a half or 2/3 part of the harvest. The difference between divani and khasse was  in that the profit, gained from divan was expended to state need, especially to army. But the profit of the lands of khasse was spent to the family of sovereign and the palace too.

As the owners of soyurgal did not pay any taxes to the state Treasury, they had already turned into “the state inside of states”. Aghqoyunlu Rustam padiShah was much more “kind” in this occasion.

During the years of 1493-1496 he shared such amount of soyurgal that even princes began to give orders about the share of soyurgals to their closest people. The sample to this evidence was prince Qasim Mirza, who referred to the year of 1498.

In the 15th century the feudal of Azerbaijan, who were the leading class divided into five groups: Ruling dynasty, led by Sultan or padiShah; Military – nomadic nobility of several tribes (baharly, barani, saadly, bayandur, mosullu, pornak, gajar and others); 3.Local settled nobility (meliks) 4.High stratum/cathegory of high civil beurocracy; 5.High/supreme Muslim (sunnite) clergy.

There were existed more than 30 taxes and obligations in Azerbaijan in 15th centuries, which caused to the suffering of the population. Major tax was malcakhat (it was called kharac or bahra). According to Uzun Hasan’s “Kanun-name”, malchakhat substituted 1/5 part of the production. Peasants payed taxes even for the use of water. Family and poll-taxes were collected from each member of the family. The tax of tamgha, which was kept from the period of Mongols was collected from craftsmen and merchants. The attempt of abolishment of this tax in 15th century was unsuccessful. There was gathered the tax of shilyanbakha for the kitchen of governors, the tax of darghaliq was collected for state officers, taghar was gathered for grain and wine-making, ikhrajat – tax, behalf on people, who occupied military, civil and spiritual posts, illegal tax of shiltagat was collected for tax collectors (mumayizane), behalf on clergy (rasm al-vuzare) and from cattle-breeders there was collected chobanbeyi.

As the feudals lived in cities their special representatives collected the taxes.

Although trade and craft were inflicted to damage at the end of 14th –the beginning 15th century, there happened social, economic, political, military, ideological changes at that period. Instead of developed, huge cities, there were shaped small towns, which inclined to agriculture. The occurred feudal strifes, foreign raids assisted to the destruction of cities and mass migration of population. Differing from Karakoyunlu and Aghqoyunlu, the socio-economic and political circumstances in the state of ShirvanShahs were much better. But the invasion of Gara Iskander to Shirvan in 1434, caused to the destruction of Shamakha, the liquidation of mulberry trees. At the result of it, silk, which was the major pattern of export in economic life of Shirvan was inflicted to damage.

Contrary to it, there was the period of rise of the cities in the phase of JahanShah Karakoyunlu’s, Uzun Hasan’s, Sultan Yaqub’s (Aghqoyunlu) reigns. Uzun Hasan’s “Kanun-name” also assisted to the rise of cities.

Neverthless, internal strife in Aghqoyunlu dynasty, as well as the wars between Aghqoyunlu and Safavid rulers at the end of the 15th century caused to the destruction of cities, the delay of their development. The 40-90s of the 15th century are considered the successful period from the viewpoint of trade and craft. The birth of grounds of capitalism in Europe assisted to the development of trade- monetry relations, extension of ties with foreign market, the increasement of the role of Azerbaijan, especially Tabriz, improvement of international relations of Europe with Asia. Really, Tabriz distinguished in this process of integration. It is essential to mention that the destruction of Astrakhan (in 1395) and Baghdad (in 1400) by Teymur strengthened the role of Tabriz in craft and trade industry. The number of population of the city was mentioned as 200, 300 thousand or more people in different sources. Teymurid rulers received great trophy from the city.

Shamakha was also one of the essential cities along with Tabriz. European travelers considered it one of economic centres, Kontrarini counted this city much better than Tabriz, in the comparance of some useful products.

The cities of Southern Azerbaijan – Maragha, Ardebil, Khoy – were the centres of trade and craft in 15th century. In the evidences of Klavikho, these were described as the ones, rounded by gardens, kitchen gardens and many springs.

Baku was the sea port of Azerbaijan in 15th century. Azerbaijan maintained relationship with central Asia, Astrakhan, Moscow and other regions by the vehicle of Baku port. The city, which attracted whole attention because of its all resources, was one of economic, political, cultural centres of the state of ShirvanShahs.

There was constructed palace complex of ShirvanShahs in Baku in 15th century. The highest circumstances of Baku decreased the political position of Derbend.

Sultaniyye, with its military – strategic position, trade – economic role and external view, lost its previous essence at the result of feudal strifes and wars. A part of its population had to migrate to Maragha, the other – to Tabriz. Along with the lost of political essence, the city lost the role of trade – craft centre; there remained only traces from the beauty of Sultaniyye – there was not other attractive pattern, except of the mausaleuem of Ulcaytu khan in the city.

Beylagan, which was turned into ruins at the result of Mongolian invasion at the beginning of the 13th century, was restored in the period of the Teymurid supremacy, at the beginning of the 15th century. Despite of it, Beylagan was cribbed as suitable and wealthy city in the evidences of historical sources, but in the period of Shahrukh’s reign the city was inflicted to damage and lost its former essence at the result of earthquake.

Another city- Ucan was also in the similar conditions with Beylagan. This city, which possessed powerful economy in the period of Hulakids, fell later. Although Sultan Yaqub restored the city (in 1489), this work was stopped later and most part of population re-settled in Tabriz.

Tabriz was considered the most developed and leading city among all cities of the Middle East.

Azerbaijan historically was one of rich centres with its highly developed craft and trade. But the internecine wars of the 15th century weakened the economy of such cities as Tabriz, Nakhichevan, Marand, Sarab.

The increasement of weaving in Azerbaijan craft production was the essential phase in the 15th century. Shamakha, Tabriz, Ardebil became the major centres of weaving. In the second half of the 15th century silkworm of Shirvan gained the fame of international mass. It is important to mention that after Mongolian conquest, the 15th century became the period of increasement of weaving, pottery, metal-working and other kinds of craft in Azerbaijan. Craftsmen, who were brought from Iran, Syria, China, Minor Asia to the capital of the state – Tabriz in the period of Hulakids mixed with the local masters and assisted to the creation of new direction in craft and art of Azerbaijan in 15th century.

Azerbaijan was the developed place of carpet-weaving since the ancient times. In 15th   century, Azerbaijan carpets possessed high demand in international market. Namely, Tabriz and Shirvan carpets achieved fame in European and Asian markets. There were described and reflected the samples of Azerbaijan carpets in the creations of European artists and masters of 15th -16th centuries – the phase of renaissance of the culture of Western Europe. There was described Azerbaijan carpet of Quba-Shirvan type of carpet-weaving in the picture of Netherlands artist, Khoins Memling, which was called “Mother Maria with her children” (1472).

Pottery also was the ancient field of craft production of Azerbaijan along with carpet weaving. The centre of highly development of pottery was the city of Tabriz. The samples of Tabriz school could be met in the palaces of Iran, Minor Asia, Egypt, China, India. Tabriz school of miniature was famous with its unforgettable creations of that period. Artistic design of the tomb of “Ab-Tabrizi” in Damascus (1423), mosques of “Muradiyye” in Edirna and “Yashil Jami” (Turkey) in Baku belonged to Tabriz masters.

Tabriz, Ardebil, Ganja, Shamakha distinguished in metal-working. The production of copper and iron makings possessed essential place too. There was generally used copper dish in the palace of Uzun Hasan. There were founded workshops in Tabriz. Emir Teymur took masters of copper from Azerbaijan to his country. Among them were Abdulaziz, who made bronde cooking pot with the weight of two ton for the mosque of Haji Ahmed Yasevi in Turkistan.

There were found big amount of metal predmets during the archaeological excavations, in Shamakha There were lots of masters on delicate carving in Azerbaijan.

There was mentioned the name of master (kharrat) Ali Tabrizi Haji Ahmed on the open-work carving of doors of above-mentioned mosque – “Yashil jame”.

There were widely spread the organizations of akhi and sufies in Azerbaijan in the 15th century. Neverthless the decrease of the independence of akhi in political and organizing sphere assisted to the liberation of trade/craft organization and to their independent development.

At the end of the 15th century, the coin of “tanga” (with the weight of 6,2 gramma), which entered to monetary of Azerbaijan after Teymur’s Indian campaign supplanted Arabic silver dirhem, which was utilized for 700 years.

But later, the social and internal wars of Teymurids decreased the weight of tanga and in Shahrukh’s reign its weight was 4,72 gramma and this tanga began to be called Shahruk’s tanga.

There were minted the coins from the name of Gold Orda Khan- Cuchi Shadi-bey, which weight was 5,6 gramma in Shirvan.

In the year of 1407-1408, there were minted coins from the name of Qara Yusif and his son Pirbudagh in Baku and Shamakha. After the defeat of Ibrahim I by Qara Yusif in 1412-1413s, ShirvanShahs became under vassalian dependence of Karakoyunlu. This situation influenced to the minting of coins as well: the names of Ibrahim I and Khalilullah I were not mentioned on coins. Silver coins were minted in Shamakha, copper ones – in Derbend and Baku. In the period of Farrukh Yasar’s reign there were minted coins from his name. In 1485, average weight of these coins reached to 2,56 gramma, since 1486 – 2,05 gramma, in 1494-1495s it decreased to 1,89 gramma and in 1500-1501s – to 1,70 gramma. Shirvanhahs used their coins little. There were few evidences about the golden coins of ShirvanShahs. Copper coins were minted in Shamakha, Derbend, Baku, Shabran, Makhmudabad.

The period of prosperity of Shirvan coincided to the years of Farrukh Yasar’s reign. The one of sources, which gave interesting evidences about Shirvan, was the treasure, found during the excavations in Icheri-sheher, in 1948. There were mentioned the name of Farrukh Yasar with the title of ShirvanShah, date, symbol of belief and the names of four caliphs on the coins, revealed in this excavation. All of these above-mentioned evidences proved that there was existed trade and monetary relationship in Shirvan.

There was utilized monetary system of Teymurids in the territories, which referred to Karakoyunlu and Aghqoyunlu. As Qara Yusif proclaimed his son Pirbudagh the Sultan because of the relativeness with Chingiz khan’s origin, he called Pirbudagh nayon.

There was minted the name of Pirbudagh on the coins. These coins were used in Shirvan, during its dependence from Karakoyunlu state as well. During Gara Iskandar’s reign, there were minted silver tanga and dirhems from his name. The weight of tanga reached to 4,69 gramma verage weight of tanga reached to 5,27 gramma in the period of JahanShah’s reign. These coins were minted in coin palaces of Tabriz, Sultaniyye, Khoy, Kaman, Kum, Baghdad, Lahican, Resht, Firuzkukh, Kazvin, Bidlis, Amid and other cities.

In the presence of Aghqoyunlu, silver tanga was minted with the title of “Sultan”. Researchers found golden coins, which referred to this period too.

In this period, coin palaces were located in Ardebil, Maragha, Urmiya and other cities. Sometimes there were minted anonymous silver coins.

We should remind “Kanun-name” of Uzun Hasan Aghqoyunlu in the socio-economic life of 15thcentury. The aim of the realization of this law was the strengthening of his reign. Neverthless he preferred to rely on the settled population for this. The goal of weaken of the independence of military-nomadic nobility, the desire to improve his country on the context of financial-economic and territorial relationship, attempted to liquidate the tax of tamgha, which was shaped by Mongols all of these aims of Uzun Hasan encountered with disagreement of his emirs. At the result of it, Uzun Hasan attained only to the decrease of tax from 1/10 to 1/20 and the land tax was determined in amount of 1/6 part. Due to the strengthening of central statehood authority, he preferred to rely on the spiritual and civil buerocracy. His successos, as his father and grandfather did their best to preserve the dynasty of Aghqoyunlu, but were not able to attain to this. There were prepared lots of measures for the complete abolishment of tamgha by the tutor and vezir of his son, Yakub Qazi Isa. In 1489, there began the implementation of these measures, even there was declared the liquidation of soyurgal, but the death of the sovereign prevented the realization of his ideas.

Later, these attempts were revised by Godek Ahmed. According to the Khondamir’s work, this ruler declared about the implementation of the rules of justice to dependers and arable-farmers. He did his best to abolish the priveleges of military-feudal nobility of Aghqoyunlu by his predecessor. He knew that without the improvement of circumstances of peasants, there was impossible to develop the economy and agriculture of the city. He preferred to return to Islam and Shariat.

Godek Ahmed liquidated about 20 taxes and obligations, shaped by Mongols and which were not mentioned in “Kanons”. There were abolished such taxes as ikhracat, shiltaqat, biyar and all heavy taxes, which were collected from muslims. But, the seven-month reign of Godek Ahmed was over in 1497. Internecine for the throne among feudal claus and the representatives of Aghqoyunlu dynasty, who supported them, inflicted damage to socio-economic circumstances of the country. At the result of it, in the beginning of the 16th century the dynasty of Aghqoyunlu was replaced by the dynasty 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"