Beylerbeylik of Chukhursaad

The formation of the city of Iravan and the Chukhursad beylerbeylik of the Safavid state

At the beginning of the 16th century, the centralized Safavid state of Azerbaijan (1501-1736) was established with the city of Tabriz as its center. Like other regions of Azerbaijan, Chukhursad was included in the Safavid state. In the 30s of the 16th century, the territory of the Safavid state of Azerbaijan was administratively divided into 13 provinces – beylerbeyliks. One of them was Chukhursad, whose center was the city of Iravan (Ravan). It included the provinces of Maku, Sadarak, Nakhchivan (from the beginning of the 17th century), Zaruzbila, Bayazid Castle, lands belonging to the Shadili and Dumbuli tribes, and Magazberd.

Iravan city, the center of Chukhursad province

The formation and development of Iravan as a city is mentioned by sources at the beginning of the 16th century. One of the most important factors that determined this historical event and led to Iravan gaining the status of the central city of Chukhursad province was the construction of a strong fortress here. Among the Ottoman sources, which contain valuable information on various aspects of the city’s structure and history, Evliya Chelebi’s “Book of Travel” recorded information about the construction of the Iravan Castle, beginning with the words “A description of the Ravan Castle of Azerbaijan – Khoja Can city”: “In the year 810 (1407/1408), a merchant named Timuri-binur Khan, Khoja Jani-Lahicani, set foot on this land of Ravan, settled in this fertile land with the smell of pure amber, planted various kinds of rice and collected the harvest, and eventually it became a big settlement. After that, in the year 915 (1509/1510), Shah of Iran (Azerbaijani Safavid – ed.) Ismail Shah ordered the construction of a fortress to a khan named Ravangulu, who completed the fortress in seven years, which is called Ravan.”

The fortress built by Ravangulu Khan was originally intended to strengthen the city of Iravan as the center of Chukhursad Beylerbey, one of the administrative units of the Safavid state of Azerbaijan. Since the city of Iravan is located in a favorable geographical position, it became the main attack target of the Ottoman army during the Safavid-Ottoman wars. Shah Ismail paid special attention to its strengthening and agreed to build a stone and brick fortress on the banks of the Zangi River.

At the beginning of the 16th century, the existence of Chukhursad Beylerbey as one of the administrative territorial units of the Safavid state of Azerbaijan is confirmed by the decree of Shah Ismail I dated August 26, 1505. In the decree, the ruler, darga and kalantar of Chukhursad were given an instruction prohibiting the divan officials from collecting various taxes and duties from the Kyzilvang monastery in the Garni district.

The city of Iravan during the Safavid-Ottoman wars

Starting from the beginning of the 16th century, the most difficult period in the history of Chukhursad Beylerbey located on the Safavid-Ottoman border began. The territory of Beylerbey and its central city, Iravan, became a battlefield between two brother Turkish empires, the Safavids and the Ottomans, who fought bloody wars with each other, and changed hands many times.

Heydar Chalabi, a participant in the Chaldiran War of 1514, described the looting of the city of Iravan and its surroundings by the Ottoman army under the leadership of Sultan Selim in his diary “Chaldiran Ruznamesi”. The author writes: “On Wednesday, Rajab 29 (September 20, 1514), the Araz River was crossed and Kasik Kunbez on the upper side of Alinja Castle was reached. The city of Nakhchivan was entered on Thursday, its inhabitants were looted because they were kizilbash, on Friday 1st Shaban (September 22) they reached the ruins of the city of Karabakh (also called Western Karabakh or Nakhchivan Karabakh). On the next day, they went to “Ahmadbey-Zaviyasi” of Nakhchivan, and on the next day, they passed by “Haji Lalali” in Chukhursad (Ravan) on the next day, and settled between “Big Vedi” and “Kichik Vedi” villages. On September 26, crossing the Zangi River (flowing from Iravan) in the vicinity of Chukhursad, leaving the village of Devali Omar and the village of Kechi Veli behind, they reached the vicinity of the city of Iravan. They stayed here the next day, and the city of Iravan was attacked and looted at midnight. On the 7th of Shaban, a camp was set up in “Eight apartments” passing through Uchkilsa located in Chukhursad. Aghrıdag was visible both on the left and behind. Another Ottoman source confirms the mentioned event – the capture and plundering of the city of Iravan, the center of Chukhursad Beylerbey by the Ottoman sultan, and the razing of the fortress.

The administration of Chukhursad Beylerbey, which is the central city of Iravan, was entrusted to Rumlu, Ustajli and Qajar emirs for a long time. Shah Ismail I entrusted the collection of tiyuldar fee of Chukhursad province to the influential Rumlu family. One of the famous emirs of this generation was Div Sultan Rumlu. During the reign of Shah Ismail I, he was the tutor and guardian of Tahmasib Mirza, the son of the Shah. In 1515, Div Sultan Rumlu, who was appointed the ruler of Chukhursad by the Shah’s decree, carried out remarkable construction works in Iravan. J. Charden writes that in front of the city of Iravan there is a big bazaar, and near it there is an ancient mosque built of bricks and currently (1673 – ed.) in ruins. That mosque is called “Div Sultan Mosque” after the person who laid its foundation.

Apparently, during the reign of Shah Ismail I, special attention was paid to the improvement and strengthening of Iravan, which is important from a military and strategic point of view. However, the city and fortress of Iravan were later repeatedly attacked by the Ottomans. All this led to the construction of two weapons manufacturing facilities in the Iravan province by order of the Shah to resist the Ottomans and carry out operations. Beylerbey of Iravan also had the right to issue coins.

As mentioned above, the region of Chukhursad (Iravan) was considered the tiyul (not hereditory) estates of Div Sultan Rumlu, and due to his personal ability, he was promoted to the position of emir-ul-umra. Shah I Tahmasib, who came to power at the age of 10 in 1524, wrote in his tazkira: “Div Sultan Rumlu was my tutor. I made Sultan Mustafa, known as Kopek Sultan, who came to power instead of his brother Chayan sultan, commander in chief along with Div Sultan.” Hasan Bey Rumlu also confirms that when Shah Tahmasib I came to power, he entrusted the state affairs to Div Sultan Rumlu. Referring to Ottoman sources, F. Sumer writes that Shah Ismail I bequeathed to the emirs on the eve of his death that they must obey the Div sultan and not break his word. Despite this, Shah I Tahmasib, under the pressure of the ustajs, made Kopek Sultan commander in chief, and Div sultan was dissatisfied with this. This dissatisfaction led to an armed struggle between them. As a result, Köpek sultan Ustajli and his supporters were defeated and took refuge in the residence of Rasht ruler in Gilan. They moved on Ardabil the following year with the help of the ruler of Rasht.

In June 1527, when Shah Tahmasib I started a campaign to defeat the attack of the Uzbeks on Khorasan, the ustajli emirs marched from Rasht to Ardabil, defeated and killed the ruler Badincan sultan Rumlu. They went from Ardabil to “Chukhursad, where the army of Div Sultan was stationed and the Rumlu tribe settled. When Div sultan and Chukha sultan heard this news, they gave up going to Khorasan, and on Friday, the 8th of Ramadan (June 8, 1527), attacked from Savujbulak and went to Azerbaijan… On Friday, the 29th of Ramadan (June 29, 1527) in Arpachay district of Nakhchivan they reached them and fought fiercely. Ustajs were defeated, Kopek sultan was killed.”

When Shah I Tahmasib’s army moved from Savujbulag and reached Sultaniya waiting for the emirs to join, Div Sultan Rumlu and Chukha Sultan also joined him, and on July 26, 1527, Div Sultan Rumlu was killed by the order of Chukha Sultan. His army and provincial officials were assigned to Suleyman bey Rumlu and he was given the nickname Suleyman Sultan. Thus, since 1527, Chukhursad Beylerbey was placed under the administration of Suleyman Sultan Rumlu.

Apparently, in the first half of the 16th century, Beylerbeylik of Chukhursad, the center of which was the city of Iravan, was ruled by well-known emirs from the Rum tribe. After Div sultan Rumlu, Beylerbeylik was ruled by Suleyman sultan Rumlu, and then Huseynkhan sultan Rumlu. During the campaigns of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to Azerbaijan in 1534-1535, the ruler of Chukhursad was Suleiman Sultan Rumlu. In the sources of that period, it is mentioned that during the rebellion of Algas Mirza against Shah I Tahmasib in 1547 and during the march of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to Azerbaijan in 1548, the ruler of Chukhursad was Huseynkhan Sultan Rumlu.

In 1548, , the ruler of Van, “a rebellious and seditious person, Iskender Pasha gathered his troops in Kurdistan and marched to Chukhursad. The ruler of Chukhursad Huseynkhan sultan did not want to fight due to the fact that Rumlu’s mulazims (corresponding to the current rank of lieutenant – ed.) were in small numbers and scattered. Only his emir Tabat Aga was sent with 20 people for intelligence assessment. They were defeated in the battle with Iskender Pasha and 5 people were killed. Tabat Aga returned. Iskander Pasha entered Iravan and burned the bazaar, then retreated to Van fortress. Huseynkhan Sultan followed them and killed 10 people. When this news reached the king, who is the savior of religion, Charandab Sultan Shamli was sent to Chukhursad to help him.”

At the beginning of 1552, Iskender Pasha, who was the ruler of Erzurum, entered the borders of the Safavids from the territory of Khoy, and then came back to Chukhursad, burned the Iravan city bazaar, and returned. Erzurum pasha proudly called himself “the ruler of Shirvan and Georgia” in his threatening letters to the emirs of Qilzilbash.

In such a situation, Shah Tahmasib I “decided to punish Iskender Pasha, the proud and headstrong ruler of Erzurum.” The Shah sent an army against him under the leadership of his son Ismail Mirza. Amirs such as Karabakh ruler Shahverdi Sultan Ziyad oglu, Chukhursad ruler Shahgulu Sultan Ustajli, Badr Khan Ustajli and Muhammad Khan Mosullu participated in this march. Qizilbash army won an important victory in the battle for Erzurum. Prominent Ottoman nobles, Trabzon ruler Mustafa Bey, Marash ruler Kabir Isa, Sultan’s servant Muhammad Bey, Iskender Pasha’s brother Ramazan Bey, Malatya ruler Kheyraddin Bey and many others were captured. The Safavid army’s destruction of of the Ottoman citis – Bitlis, Vostan, Adiljavaz, Archish, Mush and Pasi – was the excuse for the Ottoman sultan’s next march to Azerbaijan.

During Sultan Suleiman’s IV march to Azerbaijan – on July 10, 1554, the Ottoman army plundered the region of Shoreyel and Sharabkhana and approached Iravan. The Ottoman army, which captured the city on July 18, completely looted it, the palaces belonging to Shah Tahmasib, his son and the emirs were destroyed, gardens were razed to the ground. In the city, the “Sultaniyya Garden” belonging to the Shah was completely destroyed.

This march of Sultan Suleiman, known as Nakhchivan trip, did not bring any result like the previous marches. Despite all the threats of the Ottoman sultan, the Safavid Shah refrained from entering into an open battle with him, he prevented the Ottoman army from advancing into the interior of the country with the “devastated territory” tactic he implemented. Faced with acute food shortage, the Ottoman sultan left Nakhchivan, which he had set fire to in advance, on July 30 and returned to Erzurum. Qizilbash troops followed the retreating Ottomans into Ottoman territory.

After making sure that the attempts to invade Azerbaijan did not work, Sultan Suleiman agreed to start peace negotiations with the Safavids. According to the peace treaty signed in Amasya on June 1, 1555, Chukhursad Beylerbey, including the city of Iravan, remained part of the Safavid state of Azerbaijan.

It should be noted that Chukhursad Beylerbeylik was ruled by Shahgulu Sultan Ustajli, who had great influence in the Safavid court in 1551-1573. Shahgulu Sultan’s trip to Istanbul in 1567 as an envoy of Shah Tahmasib I to congratulate Sultan Selim II’s accession to the throne with valuable gifts and a thousand-person delegation shows that he was closely involved in important state affairs. The delegation was welcomed by Piyale Pasha in Istanbul and placed in Khanjarli Sultan palace. In February 1568, Shahgulu Sultan Ustajli was brought to the palace of Sultan Selim II, who was wintering in Edirne. The Safavid envoy was received by the Sultan after meeting with Shamsi Ahmed Pasha and the ministers. After a banquet was given in honor of the envoy, he was presented with a letter confirming the peace previously concluded between the parties and allowed to return, thereby preserving the relations between the two states.

At the end of the reign of Shah I Tahmasib, Muhammad Khan Tohmaq Ustacli, the son of Shahgulu Sultan Ustajli became the beylerbey of Chukhursad. In 1576, a large delegation was sent to Istanbul under his leadership. Iskender Bey Munshi writes about this: “… Since the king of Rum, Selim Khan, died and his son Sultan Murad sat on the throne, the Shah wanted to send one of the wise and visionary great emirs to the embassy of Rum to express his condolences on the death of Sultan Selim and to congratulate Sultan Murad on accession to the throne… The honorable ruler…sent Chukhursad ruler Muhammad Khan Tohmaq, one of the respected emirs of the Ustajli tribe, to perform this service.”

After the death of Shah I Tahmasib in May 1576, his son Ismayil Mirza, who was imprisoned in the Qahgaha fortress, was released from prison and was proclaimed king in Qazvin in August of the same year. After consolidating his power, Shah Ismail II with the help of his cousin Abu Turab Mirza got killed Sarı Lachin and Allahgulu Bey, the brothers of Tohmaq Khan, who had been ambassadors in Istanbul since the time of Shah Tahmasib. These murders were continued with the removal of ustajli emirs. At that time, Tohmaq Khan, returning from Istanbul, saw that his property in Chukhursad was confiscated by Abu Turab Mirza (the murderer of his cousin and brothers). After the murder of Prince Mustafa Sultan, Ismail II pardoned the ustajli and Tohmaq Khan was returned to his former position. After he returned to the governorship of the Chukhursad region, he became a trusted person of the center and began to control all issues again. Even after Mohammad Khudabanda came to power in in 1578, Mohammad Khan Tohmaq remained the ruler of Chukhursad. During this period, serious work was done in the field of improvement of Iravan, a beautiful Khan’s palace and Khan’s garden were built. In those years, new water channels were built and large lakes were created to irrigate agricultural fields.

The city of Iravan under Ottoman rule (1583–1604)

During the course of the new stage of the Ottoman-Safavid wars (1578-1590), the city of Iravan was once again attacked by the Ottoman army. In August 1583, Farhad Pasha, the new leader of the Eastern campaign, left Erzurum with 70,000-80,000 troops and crossed Kars and entered Chukhursad province. Seeing the superior power of the Ottomans in front of him, Chukhursad Beylerbey Mohammad Khan Tohmaq turned to the Beylerbeys of Karabakh and Tabriz – Imamgulu Khan Qajar and Amir Khan Turkman – for help. Those emirs had left the call of Mohammad Khan unanswered because they considered it beyond their power to resist the Ottoman army without the help of the Shah who was still in Khorasan. Therefore, Mohammad Khan left Iravan and went to Nakhchivan, Farhad Pasha captured Iravan.

Farhad Pasha built a small castle and an outer castle on the east bank of the Zangi river, which included the palace of Mohammad Khan Tohmak in the city of Iravan. The small castle with eight towers, five iron gates, a mosque, a bath, and forty three-towered outer forts were built in 45 days. The palace of Mohammad Khan Tokhmak was demolished and its stones were used in the construction of the Iravan Castle. Due to the lack of material for the construction of the castle walls, emirs and soldiers were sent to collect stone and wood materials from the surrounding areas.

According to the sources, “the outer fortress of Iravan passed through places called Zangi bridge, Demirbulag, Abbasdarı (Abbasdarı – ed.), Köşeli, Abagayat (Abıhayat – ed.), Karabakh and Zogalgala, turned to the Zangi river and stretched along the river and joined at the Zangi bridge. There were 50-60 towers on the fortress walls, which were about 30 km long. Dense trees were planted in front of the castle walls to strengthen the defense. The construction of fortress walls around the city of Iravan shows that the Ottomans paid special attention to its defense. Because the lack of rocks and stones around the city made it difficult to build strong fortress walls, a ditch was dug in front of the fortress walls. Farhad Pasha appointed Khizir Pasha the beylerbey of Iravan and he was equipped with the necessary ammunition and military equipment. According to Evliya Chelebi, 70,000 Ottoman soldiers were placed at the disposal of Khizir Pasha.

Thus, as a result of the Safavid-Ottoman war of 1578-1590, the Kizilbash were defeated and the Istanbul peace treaty of 1590 was signed between the parties. Like most areas of Azerbaijan, Chukhursad Beylerbey, whose center is Iravan, remained under Ottoman rule for a long time – 20 years.

Demographic situation of Iravan region during Ottoman rule

The Ottoman Empire, which won the war, started censuses in the captured Safavid lands, including in the Iravan region, immediately after the peace of Istanbul. In the “Detailed Notebook of Iravan Province” compiled in 1590, the history of the Azerbaijani Turks, the oldest local population of this land, is reflected in all its subtleties, as well as the socio-economic situation of the region, including the city of Iravan, its historical geography, existing toponyms, and very valuable materials about it have been reflected.

The Ottoman sultans, unable to assess the future threat to the history of the whole Turks, settled Armenians in the Western Azerbaijani lands they captured, especially in the Iravan region, and showed them special “care”. In the course of the Safavid-Ottoman wars, the immunity of the Armenians who were transferred to the Azerbaijani lands was ensured by the sultan’s decrees and special instructions sent from Istanbul. However, the course of the war changed in favor of the Safavids, and Azerbaijani Turks returned to their native land, the traditional demographic situation was restored. In order to illuminate the real ethnic picture of the population living in the Iravan region, it is necessary to take into account the information of the historical chronicles that were compiled in these books and those written in the previous period.

As a result of the ongoing Safavid-Ottoman wars starting from the beginning of the 16th century, a large part of the Shiite population of the western region of Azerbaijan was forced to leave their homeland. The sources of the period indicate that no one lived in Abaran, Sharabkhana, Bazarchayi, Zar and Zabil areas. On October 4, 1579, the 40,000-strong Ottoman army, moving from Kars, crossed Arpachay from the side of the Shoreyel plain and entered Sharabkhana area of Sharur district and took up to 20,000 prisoners from there. Although the chronicles of the time did not provide information about the ethnicity of the captives, Sultan Murad III’s decree dated April 28, 1578 gives grounds for saying that they were Muslim (Turkish) population. In this decree issued on the eve of the war with the Safavids, it was ordered “not to harm the property and lives of the tribute-paying Armenian tribes”. Also, in August 1583, when the Ottoman army under the leadership of Farhad Pasha entered Iravan province from the side of Shoreyel and Talin (Talin), the Muslim (Turkish) population of Iravan city and the province of the same name left the area and retreated to Aghrıdag and the plains.

In order to create a social base for himself in the captured Chukhursad region, the Ottoman sultan moved the Sunni Kurds along with the Christian population to the lands that were forcibly abandoned by the Turkish-Muslim population. According to the “Muhimma notebook” of the Ottoman Archives of the Prime Minister’s Office (Başbakanlık Ottoman Archives) of the end of the 16th century, by the order of Sultan Murad III, “from Diyarbakır… the Tigris Kurds, called Kurmac who are from the Sunni sect… were brought to the regions of Maku, Iravan and Nakhchivan and settled in the villages and towns vacated by the Turkmens and the Oirat people.”

After 1590, the favorable living conditions created by the Ottoman sultan in Iravan province compared to the Safavid era, and especially the law they drafted to govern the province with justice, made it possible for the Turkish-Muslim population of Iravan province, who had left their native land, to return to their ancestral lands. It can be seen from the detailed notebook that the Turkish-Muslim population returned and settled in Iravan, Karbi, Karni, Vedi, Talin (Talin) and Ermavi districts, and pre-Ottomans settled in Karni, Vedi, Ermavi, Nakhchivan, Mulki-Arslanli, Karabakh, Sharur, Azadjiran, Shorlut districts. Even after some time, the first sources confirm that the population living permanently in the city of Iravan still consisted entirely of Azerbaijani Turks. When Chardin, a French traveler of the 17th century, was in Iravan (1673), Safigulu Khan Chukhursad was the beylerbey and the ruler of Iravan. Chardin shows that he loves art and science, and everyone respects him. According to the traveler, “…Iravan Castle consists of about eight hundred houses. Only pure-blooded qizilbash (i.e. Azerbaijani Turks – ed.) live there.” Thus, in the mentioned period, the vast majority of the population living in the ancient Chukhursad (Iravan) region of Azerbaijan and the city of Iravan consisted of Azerbaijani Turks.

During the Safavid-Ottoman wars in the 16th century, the city of Iravan was repeatedly attacked by the Ottoman army, but life continued in the city. According to the Ottoman source of 1590, the city of Iravan was a Muslim-Turkish city with mosques, a khan’s palace, baths and a bazaar. Naringala was divided into 6 districts called Dereköy, Mardiros, Mazara (Marza), Kichik Kayıgh (Kıçık Kayığı), Ayali (Isaly) and Borkchu Ohan. In Bayır Qala, the city’s neighborhoods were named Derekoy, Baghlar, Haji Ilyas, Yenije and Oxcabert.

At the end of the 16th century, Shah Abbas made serious preparations for the war in order to restore the historical borders of the Safavid state, especially to liberate the territory of Azerbaijan, which was of great economic importance. All the economic, political and military reforms he implemented were aimed at this goal. During the mentioned period, the internal and external situation of the Ottoman state was difficult and the Ottoman power in Azerbaijan was significantly weakened.

Taking advantage of the uprisings against the Ottoman rule in Azerbaijan, Shah Abbas started a march to Azerbaijan on September 14, 1603, from Mazandaran with a force of 2-3 thousand men. The Safavid army besieged Tabriz on September 27 and liberated the city on October 21. This event made it possible for the Safavid army to advance westward.

Liberation and strengthening of the city of Iravan

After liberating Julfa and Nakhchivan, Shah Abbas decided to capture the Iravan fortress. At that time, the Iravan castle complex consisted of three important castles: “One is the Atig castle built by Sardar Farhad Pasha in 1583… The second is a small castle called Gozchu located on the hill in the southwest of the castle, the distance between these two castles is two-three arrow speed…The third one is the New Castle, which was built quite solidly next to the Atiq Castle in a few days, but they still did not have the opportunity to build a wall and dig a trench there.”

On October 18, 1603, the Safavid army appeared southeast of the Iravan fortress. In the fortress, Sharif Pasha’s 10,000-strong Ottoman garrison was defended by three fortified lines. Therefore, the siege of the city lasted for a long time. Shah Abbas mobilized the people of Nakhchivan and Julfa to build fortifications around the Iravan fortress and advised them to participate in the military operation. Shah Abbas I divided his troops into several groups. He ordered the leader of the Azerbaijani army, Zulfugar Khan, to capture Gozchu Castle, another famous general, Kirchigai Bey, together with his special guards was stationed in front of the Old Castle (Atiq Castle). At that time, the Ottoman artillerymen had bombarded the soldiers of Shah I Abbas from the fortress walls. Seeing that the situation was getting tense, Shah Abbas took urgent measures.

After Gozchu Castle was captured, Shah Abbas I ordered Kirchigai Bey to capture the “New Castle”. He also put a group of Khorasan riflemen and his own special guards under his command. Zulfugar Khan was sent to besiege the Old Fort and was given one of the newly made cannons. On June 8, 1604, the Iravan fortress was liberated, and the Ottoman garrison headed by Sharif Pasha surrendered. Considering the request of Sharif Pasha, Shah Abbas appointed him as trustee of Imam Reza’s tomb in Mashhad, and a captured group of 500 people under the leadership of Mehmed Pasha was allowed to travel to Kars. Shah Abbas I appointed Amirguna Khan Qajar, who received the nickname “Yellow Lion” due to his bravery in these battles, Chukhursad (Iravan) beylerbey. After the death of Amirguna Khan in 1625, his son, Tahmasibgulu Bey Qajar, the most famous general of Shah Abbas I, was appointed to this position. 

Thus, the city of Iravan, which remained under the control of the Ottoman state for more than twenty years, was liberated and returned to the control of the Safavid state of Azerbaijan, and during the 17th century, the administration of this region remained in the hands of the Agjagoyunlu Gajars, an ancient tribe of Azerbaijan.

Since the Safavid-Ottoman wars continued in the first half of the 17th century, the city of Iravan was attacked by the Ottoman sultan Murad IV in 1635. The Ottoman army besieged the city of Iravan on July 27 of that year, and Tahmasibgulu Khan Qajar, the ruler of Iravan, was forced to surrender despite resisting until August 8.

After the Ottoman army left Tabriz, the Shah’s military council decided to immediately recapture the city of Iravan. On December 25, 1635, the Safavid army under the command of Rustam Khan surrounded the fortress. On April 2, 1636, the city of Iravan was freed from the occupation by the Safavid army.

The Safavid-Ottoman wars, which lasted more than 100 years, ended in 1639 with the Treaty of Kasri-Shirin, and a long period of peace between the two empires, which lasted until 1723, began. The peace had a positive effect on social and economic development in Chukhursad.

The analysis of the historical sources and scientific literature of the period shows that the city of Iravan, one of the main provincial centers of the Safavid state of Azerbaijan, for having great importance due to its strategic position was intermittently occupied by the Ottomans during the long-lasting Safavid-Ottoman wars. It has influenced the future development of this city. Although the city of Iravan was destroyed during the attacks of the Ottoman army in different periods, the structure of the city and its fortification by the fortress walls were ensured precisely when it was under the Ottoman rule. In order to defend the city of Iravan from the attack of the Safavid army, the Ottoman commander Farhad Pasha built a magnificent fortress in the city and built fortress walls around the city. The city of Iravan was further fortified by the Safavids after it was freed from the Ottoman occupation in April 1636.

In 1663, Shah Abbas II appointed Abbasgulu Khan, the son of Amirguna Khan, the former ruler of Chukhursad, as the ruler of Iravan, and he ruled Chukhursad Beylerbey until 1666. He was replaced by Safigulu Khan (1666-1674).

Safigulu Khan built a large canal from the Garasu river to one of the waterless deserts, built a village there and named it Safiabad after himself. Safigulu Khan’s wife also acted likewise and built a canal from this canal to the other side and named it Khatinarkhi. After that, the couple allowed the public to use the water of this canal and Khatinarkhi, which they built for charity, without paying taxes.

After the death of Safigulu Khan, Chukhursad Beylerbey was ruled by Rustam oglu Safigulu Khan (1674-1679). During his time, the situation of the population became much worse. As a result, the servicemen from the Qajar and Bayat tribes, who were left unpaid for two years, revolted against Safiqulu Khan in 1677. Taking into account the situation, Shah Suleyman (1666-1694) appointed Zal Khan (1679-1688), one of his trusted men, to the governorship of Chukhursad. During his reign – in the last quarter of the 17th century, the Safavid state, like all Middle Eastern countries, was experiencing a period of deep decline. Chukhursad Beylerbeylik wasn’t left unaffected.

However, as in many parts of Azerbaijan, traditional economic life continued in Chukhursad. The city of Iravan, was located at the junction of trade routes connecting the trading centers of the Ottoman Empire, Tiflis, Ganja, Shamakhi and Isfahan. Iravan had wider trade relations with other Azerbaijani cities. Merchants came to Iravan from all over the region.

Iravan city in travelers’ descriptions

Travelers who have been here at different times have given interesting information about the city of Iravan, one of the administrative units of the Safavid state, and the center of the Chukhursad Beylerbey.

J.B. Tavarnier, a French traveler who visited Iravan in the mid-50s of the 17th century, while describing the city of Iravan, noted that it consists of two parts – the inner city and the outer city. Khan’s mansion overlooks the river. Khan is very powerful and he has an army capable of guarding the border at all times. …in the outer city, located in the northwestern part, the population is 20 times higher than in the inner city.”

J. Chardin, another French traveler who visited Iravan in the early 70s of the 17th century, gave a general description of the city and wrote: “Although Iravan is a big city, it is not beautiful and it is a dirty city. …Most of it consists of gardens and vineyards. …It is located on a plain surrounded by mountains on all sides. Zangi rivers flow from the north-west side, and Kirkhbulag rivers flow from the south-west side.” J. Charden later described the inner city, that is, the castle: “The castle is bigger than a small town. It is oval in shape, four thousand paces in circumference, and contains about eight hundred houses. … Two thousand soldiers have been allocated for the defense of the fortress. The ruler’s palace is inside the fort. … There are many baths and caravanserais in the city and the castle.”

Evliya Çelebi, an Ottoman traveler who visited Iravan in the 17th century, gave interesting information about the fortress-city of Iravan: “It has three gates made of solid iron. Tabriz gate opens to the south, Meydan gate or Yayla gate to the north. Çovken Square is located here. The bridge gate opening to the west is called “Darvazeyi-Pul” in Ajam language. There are 700 large and small cannons left over from the Ottoman Empire. There are countless other ammunition and armories. …Here there are 3 thousand fortress guards, 3 thousand Khan’s army and 7 thousand provincial soldiers. This place was the khanate of khans several times. Here there are a kadi, a mullah, a sheikh-sharif, a kalantar, a darga, a munshi, a yasavul agha, a guard, a eshikaghasi, 7 innkeepers and shehbandars.”

The city of Iravan, described by Evliya Çelebi, was divided into three important parts – Eskishehir, Naringala and Korpubashi. Eskishehir and Naringala were located to the east of the Zangi River, while Korpubashi was located on the west bank of the river. E. Çelebi notes: “In Naringala there is a palace of Beylerbey, a mosque, a mint and 2,600 covered earthen houses. The most beautiful of them is the Khan Palace, which was improved by Amirguna Khan. Near this palace, on the left, is the royal mint. Abbasi and bisti were minted here. In the north of the castle, Eskishehir is located in front of Yayla gate. There is Chovgan square, Friday mosque, caravanserai, covered and open bazaars. Korpubashi is located at the head of the bridge that opens from the castle to the west bank of the river. Khan’s garden was built here. There is also a Friday mosque, a caravanserai, a bathhouse, and a covered bazaar. It is a kind of city. After this place passed into the hands of Ajam (Safavids – ed.), they built a three-layer thick wall outside the eastern side of the castle and added it to the original wall.”

The French traveler Joseph de Tournefort, who was in Iravan in the summer of 1701, also gave interesting information about the city: “The city of Iravan, located on the top of a hill on the edge of the plain, is full of vineyards and other gardens. Even the houses are surrounded by meadows, fruit trees and vineyards in one of the most beautiful valleys in the country. …The houses of Iravan, as in other cities of the country, are one-story, built of clay bricks and mud. Each house is square, rectangular or circular in shape and is surrounded by a wall about 2 meters high. The city walls are in many places double-layered, but they are not more than 4 feet high, and are only defended by circular ditches 4 or 5 feet wide. All these buildings and even the walls were built with sun-dried bricks. The fortress walls on the upper side of the city are not in good condition, although they are three-layered. There are more than 800 houses in oval-shaped fortress, where Muslims live, Armenians who work here during the day go to the city to sleep. The number of fortress guards is said to be 2,500. It is impossible to capture the fortress from the north: but this is not due to the brick walls, but the work of nature, which equips the fortress with a terrible cliff through which the river flows. The gate of the castle is covered with sheet metal. The iron railings of the gate and the castle guards complement each other quite well.”

The traveler who “crosses the Zangi River over the three-arched bridge” to go to Iravan city, when the weather is very hot, the provincial ruler comes to cool down in the rooms built under these arches, on the hill in the south of the city, about 1000 paces from the fortress, there is the Kechigala, protected by double walls, and all the posts in the Iravan walls are quite reported that it has a specific structure.

The city of Iravan at the beginning of the 18th century

At the beginning of the 18th century, the central authority in the Safavid state was very weak. As well as other areas of the state, the rulers who ruled separate regions of Azerbaijan, including Chukhursad beylerbeys, alienated from the central government and became independent rulers.

Local rulers used popular uprisings to achieve their goals. Taking advantage of the weakening of the Safavids, the Afghans captured the capital city of Isfahan in 1722, Russia occupied the Caspian coast provinces of the Safavid state in 1722-1723. Worried about this, the Ottoman state sent its troops to Azerbaijan in 1723 to get ahead of Russia.

Russia refrained from going to war with the Ottoman state, and as a result, a treaty was signed between Russia and the Ottoman states in Istanbul in 1724. According to the terms of the agreement, Russia was satisfied with keeping the provinces of the Caspian coast that it occupied. The Ottoman state ensured Russia’s neutrality in order to occupy the remaining territories of the South Caucasus, including Azerbaijan.

In the spring of 1724, the Ottoman commander Arifi Ahmed Pasha moved from Tiflis to the city of Iravan with more than 60,000 troops and reached the Arpachay valley on May 29 and took a position here. The Ottoman army faced serious resistance around the Iravan fortress. The people of Chukhursad, led by Beylerbey Aligulu Khan (in some sources Allahgulu Khan), fiercely resisted the Ottoman troops. During the defense of Iravan, the population of the city consisted entirely of Azerbaijanis. L. Lockhart reported that the fierce attacks of the Ottoman army were met with heroic resistance by the defenders of Iravan, the Ottomans suffered a large number of losses, and in connection with this, “Arif Ahmed Pasha proposed a temporary truce to bury the dead.”

The Armenians who settled in Uchkilsa and its surroundings, mainly consisting of Gregorian missionaries, were not interested in the fate of Chukhursad and Iravan Castle because it was not their homeland. On the contrary, in order to gain a foothold in these lands they were ready to make a deal with any foreign power that attacked the country. Therefore, neither Catholicos nor Armenian missionaries participated in the defense of Iravan. On the contrary, the Armenians established contact with the Ottoman military units and impatiently waited for the surrender of the Iravan fortress and the victory of the Ottoman troops who intervened in Azerbaijan. 

As the siege of Iravan extended, the lack of food and ammunition in the fortress began to be felt more and more. Since no forces came to help the defenders of the city, the Iravan command was forced to enter into negotiations with Arif Ahmed Pasha. The Ottoman troops, who received continuous help from the center, were able to capture the Iravan fortress with great difficulty, which they had besieged for 92 days.

After the capture of the Iravan fortress, Osman Pasha, governor of Anatolia, was appointed as the ruler of Iravan.

After the loss of the city of Iravan, Chukhursad Beylerbey remained under the rule of the Ottomans for more than 10 years. The Ottomans applied their administrative management system in the territories of Azerbaijan and divided the provinces into sanjaks and nahiyahs.

According to the “Detailed Book of Iravan Province” dated 1728 compiled by Ottoman officials, the territory of the former Chukhursad Beylerbey was divided into two sanjaks – Iravan and Nakhchivan. Iravan sanjak included 10 nahiyahs: Iravan, Karbi, Garni, Vedi, Aralik, Talin (Talin), Ermus, Abnik, Abaran, Sharabkhana. Nakhchivan sanjak consisted of 16 nahiyahs (Aghjagala, Mavaziyi-Khatun, Mulki-Arslanli, Karabakh, Daresham, Daranurgut, Dareshahbuz, Bazarchayi, Sharur, Shorlu, Zar, Zabil, Alinja, Sisyan, Azadjiran, Ordubad) and one kaza – Nakhchivan. At this time, along with Maku, Igdir, Surmeli nahiyahs, Zar, Zabil and Sharur nahiyahs were removed from the Nakhchivan sanjak and merged into Iravan sanjak. At the same time, Goycha, Mazraa, Khinzirak, Kirkhbulag, Derachichak, Sadarak nahiyahs and Shurayel sanjak were created in the territory of Iravan sanjak. Talin (Talın), Ermus, Abnik, Sharabkhana nahiyahs, which existed at the end of the 16th century, as well as Bazarchay and Agjagala nahiyahs in the territory of Nakhchivan sanjak were abolished. In the mentioned period, the city of Irevan consisted of 4 quarters – Old Town, Demirbulag, Derekend and Tepebashi. 

At the beginning of the 30s of the 18th century, the Ottoman military forces began to leave the territory of Azerbaijan under the attacks of the Safavid troops led by a prominent Azerbaijani general Nadir Khan Afshar. When the turn came to Iravan, the Ottoman garrison in the fortress preferred to defend itself rather than engage in a battle. Soon, the Ottoman garrison entered into negotiations with Nadir Khan, considering that this was also pointless, the Ottomans left the fortress on October 3, 1735 without any loss.

Seeing that Nadir’s success was inevitable, the Armenian Catholicos turned his back on the Ottomans and took Nadir’s side. Victories in the war against foreign invaders increased the prestige of Nadir Khan in the army and throughout the country and ensured that he was elected king at the Mughan Congress.

Tofiq Najafli

Doctor of historical sciences, associate professor