Western Azerbaijan in the Middle Ages

Western Azerbaijan in the Middle Ages

The events that took place in the Middle East region during the first half of the 3rd century had a significant impact on Western Azerbaijan as well. In the year 226, I Ardeshir, a member of the Sasanian dynasty, declared himself Shahanshah in the city of Ctesiphon, establishing the foundation of the Sasanian Empire. During his reign, the region of Adurbadagan (the southern part of historical Azerbaijani territories) and some territories inhabited by Scythian-Sak Turkic tribes were occupied. It should be noted that during the reign of I Ardeshir and his son I Shapur, the territory of the Turkic tribes was extended eastward to include Balochistan and was referred to as “Tūrān.” During this period, the ancient traditions of statehood among the local Turkic tribes continued to persist in a significant part of Azerbaijan. In the northern part of Azerbaijan, the population of the Albanian state and the Sak country mainly consisted of local Turkic tribes. The names of the territories that were part of Azerbaijan’s historical and geographical makeup were mentioned in I Shapur’s Ka’ba-ye Zartosht trilingual inscription as “Āδurbāyagān” (Ἀτροπατηνή), “Sagān,” “Arrān” (Ἀλβανίαν), and “Balāsagān.” It’s worth noting that the name of the Albanian state was mentioned as “Ardān” in the Aramaic text of I Shapur’s inscription, “Albania” in the Greek text, and “Arrān” in the Pahlavi text. The name of the country “Sagān” (=Segān) was only mentioned as “Μαχελονίαν” (Maxelonia) in the Greek text of the inscription.

In the 3rd century, the Sak country mentioned in Aramaic and Pahlavi texts encompassed the western territories of Azerbaijan, including the present-day territory of the Republic of Armenia. The name “Sakan” or “Sak country” used for this region in historical sources once again confirms that its indigenous population consisted of the Scythian-Sak Turkic tribes. Later, Armenians distorted the name of the southern part of the Sak country to Syunik or Sisakan. The inhabitants of Sakasena were Turkic tribes engaged in seasonal pastoralism, including the Scythian-Sak Turkic tribes. The region of Sakasena extended from the Mil Plain in the east, to Eastern Anatolia in the west, from the Goycha Lake basin in the north to the Araz River in the south. This region, known as Sakasena in ancient sources, was referred to as “Sakan” or the land of Sak from the 3rd century in Pahlavi texts. Anthropological evidence from the skulls discovered in the burial monuments of the early centuries AD around Iravan, the Goycha Lake area, Zangezur, and Derelyaz suggests that these regions were inhabited by the descendants of the earlier populations.

The ancient belief system of the indigenous Turkic tribes living in the areas around Iravan was paganism. Notably, the earliest Christian churches in the region were built on the sites of ancient indigenous worship places. It’s worth noting that Armenians still preserved remnants of the polytheistic era in the 3rd-4th centuries. In the early centuries of our era, when Christianity spread, Armenians not only accepted this religion but also engaged in acts of terror against Christian clergy.

After a portion of the indigenous Turkic tribes in the areas around Iravan embraced Christianity, they constructed numerous churches. It’s important to mention that the significant part of the Azerbaijani Turks’ historical traces-  the Azman Oghuz and Kipchak graves, was later destroyed and distorted by Armenian vandals, with the remaining parts being used in various construction projects. The written stones of an early medieval Albanian-Kipchak church near the village of Jil close to Goycha Lake was destroyed by Armenians. In the east of Goycha Lake, a large Turkic cemetery from the early medieval period near the village of Naraduz is currently in a deteriorated state. Here, along with tombstones belonging to Kipchak Turkic Christian tribes, there are numerous memorial stones bearing evidence of the ancient history of the Oghuz tribes. The oldest monuments in the Naraduz tombs date back to the 5th century. In the vicinity of Iravan and its surrounding plateaus, the Shoreyel Plain, and the Goycha Lake basin, the depictions on memorial stones—horses, migrating to pastures, women weaving carpets—provide insights into the lifestyle and ethnic identity of these people.

In the early Middle Ages, the Albanian state was able to increase its military power with the support of the newly arrived Hun tribes. In 359, during the battle against the Romans near the Amid fortress (Diyarbakir), the Albanian ruler Urnair spoke together with the Sasanian Shah Shapur II and the White Huns Khagan Grumbat: “Ibi morati integrum biduum, cum sol tertius adfulsisset, cernebamus terrarum omnes ambitus subiectos, quos ὁριστένος appellamus, agminibus oppletos innumeris et antegressum regem vestis claritudine rutilantem. Quem iuxta laevus incedebat Grumbates Chionitarum rex novus aetate quidem media rugosisque membris sed mente quadam grandifica multisque victoriarum insignibus nobilis; dextra rex Albanorum pari loco atque honore sublimis; post duces varii auctoritate et potestatibus eminentes, quos ordinum omnium multitudo sequebatur ex vicinarum gentium roboribus lecta, ad tolerandam rerum asperitatem diuturnis casibus erudita” (“Having stayed there for two whole days, when the sun had risen for the third time, we saw in the lands around us (the horizon we call ὁρισκονάτων) the innumerable army of the king, marching forward and wearing bright clothes. Next to him on the left walked Grumbates, the new king of the Huns, indeed of middle age and of wrinkled limbs, but of a certain magnificence of mind, and of many noble victories; on the right, the king of the Albans, equal in rank and exalted in honor; after the various leaders, eminent in authority and power, who were followed by multitudes of all orders, chosen from the strength of the neighboring nations, trained to endure the roughness”).

It is known from history that Shapur II was defeated by the Huns long before this event, concluded a treaty with them and entered into an alliance. The Albanian ruler Urnair declared Christianity the official religion of his state. Armenians were known for their acts of terror against Christian clergy. In the IV-VI centuries, a large part of the western lands of Azerbaijan was part of the Albanian state. The integrity of Albanian history-geography is once again confirmed by the letter sent by the Armenian Catholicos Iohannes II (557-574 years) to the Albanian Catholicos Abbas (551-595). This letter shows that the provinces of Big Kogman (Kuman=Qipchak), Amaras, Girdiman, Balasakan (Beylagan), Sheki and Bahalat were not only internal territories of the Albanian country, but it even proved that it was officially recognized by Armenians.

Both the architectural style and the epigraphic texts of the Albanian religious monuments in the west of Azerbaijan have been seriously destroyed. It should be noted that the main goal of Armenian vandalism in the west of Azerbaijan (now Armenia) was to destroy the historical and cultural monuments belonging to the local Turkic clans. Here, the name of the Kipchak tribes can be found in a number of place names, historical and cultural monuments in the form of “archi”, “archu” (aruch), “hartes” and “hartesh”. Mainly, in Hamamli (Ashtarek) and Shoreyel districts, starting from the early medieval period Kipchak churches were widespread. The monastery known as “Kpchakaveng” (Qipchak church) in Shoreyel for centuries was named “Harichavank” by Armenians. This word originates from the pronunciation of the Turkish word “brother” in the form of “khartich/artich” in Armenian. In Hamamli (Ashtarek) district, the name of Aruch church is explained by the name of Kipchak Turks.

In the Hamamly (Astara) region located at the western border of Azerbaijan, most of the ancient churches were built by Christian clergies of Turkic origin. Here, the Alban-Kipchak temple, known as the Kazakh basilica, proves the existence of the Kazakh tribe, a branch of the Qipchak clan, from ancient times. Among the main Christian religious monuments of Hamamly (Ashtarek) we can mention  the Church of the Holy Cross built in the 4th century, the Ashtarek monuments of the 7th-13th centuries (Ashtarek village), the Karmvravor church built by the Kipchak priests named Manas and Grigori in the 7th century, the Aruch church of the 7th century, V century church in the village of Ovanaveng, V century Kazakh basilica in the town of Abaran, V century church in the villlage of  Ashnak. In most of these monuments, Armenian cross-stones (khachkars) have been placed later and inscriptions have been erased. A.L. Yakobson, who explored the early Christian monuments of the South Caucasus, noted that “the monumental early medieval architecture of Caucasian Albania held a prominent position in the Armenian territory.” The Holy Cross Church in Abaran city was significantly altered in 1877 under the pretext of restoration, and its inscriptions were destroyed. In the highlands of Hamamly (Astara), there are numerous statues of horses related to Turkic tribes. One of the ancient names encountered in the historical sources of the Goycha (Gegarkuni) region of Western Azerbaijan can be explained by the old Turkic word “Gögarku” (Göy arx) meaning “blu aryk”. Among the Alban-Kipchak churches in the Goycha area we can mention the Qizilvank church from the 9th-10th centuries (Qizilvank village), Qamishly (Qamishly/Qanly/Qanly Allahverdi village), Dashkend (Dashkend village), Kichik Mezre (Bala Mezre village), Eyrivank (Eyrivank village), Khudavank (Yukhari Adiyaman village), and Shogakavank (Choragyuk village) churches.  

In Zangibasar region, the historical and cultural monuments depicting Kipchak cross-stones have been destroyed and their inscriptions scattered. The forgeries of the Armenian Gregorian Church here are more open and clear compared to other places. Among the Alban-Kipchak Christian monuments in Zangibasar we can mention a church from the 7th century (Shahab village), the Avujdar Monastery from the 10th-13th centuries, a church and a fortress from the 10th-13th centuries (Ursazor village), and the Aghca Monastery built in the 13th century (near Gilanlar village). Among the scattered Alban religious monuments in Sardarabad region, especially noteworthy are the basilica from the 5th century and the Blue Angels church from the 7th century. Like many other places in Western Azerbaijan, the so-called “Armenian religious monuments” here actually reflect the religious worldview of the Alban population before the spread of Christianity. Armenian historian N. Adonts mentions that there is limited information about the military, religious, and political life of the Albanians. There is no serious written source about the Armenians’ ownership of the Christian monuments in Zangezur. Armenians have converted some of these monuments into the Gregorian churches by making significant alterations and have completely destroyed the rest. As a result of Armenian vandalism, one of the Christian churches in such a deteriorated state is the Qizil (Red) Church. The widely spread Armenian name “Tanaat” actually originates from the Turkic word “Tanri Ata” (God Father) in accordance with Christian beliefs.  

The historical account of the construction of the Qizil Church is only found in the 13th century book “Syunik History” written by Stefan Orbelian. As known, Alban ruler III Movses Vachagan initiated extensive construction works to promote Christianity. In the “Albanian History”, it is reported that he built as many churches as the number of the days in a year. Only the ruins of this Albanian temple, called the “Red Church” and visited by the local Turkish population near the villages of Jomardli and Arafsa, remain today. The monument was severely damaged by Armenians twice. However, due to the Armenian massacres committed by the Dasnak Andranik’s forces in July 1918, the local population was displaced, and the church fell into a ruinous state. This bloody event is known in our history as the Jomardli Massacre. In 1975, Armenians destroyed the walls of the temple, tore out the cuneiform inscription of Urartu ruler Argishti II and took it to the Iravan museum. It’s worth mentioning the “special contributions” of Armenian Urartologists like N. Arutyunyan in this regard. Representing Urartian monuments as ancient Armenian cultural samples by Armenian scholars, including N. Arutyunyan, has not held serious scientific value; it has only served to fuel chauvinistic tendencies. Serious scholarly research confirms that the mentioned inscriptions have no connection to Armenians but relate to a certain ruler’s attack on the region. It’s essential to note that there is no linguistic affiliation between the Urartian language and Armenian and no evidence of any level of inheritance between the two. Neither the Qizil Church nor the Urartian inscription found there has any connection to Armenians. The text of the inscription found in the Qizil Church reveals that this written source speaks of Urartian King II Argishti’s (714-680 BC) attack on the KURshu-lu-qu-ú region (Sünik/Zangezur).

At the beginning of the 7th century, there was a fierce struggle for hegemony between the Sassanids and the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) in the South Caucasus, Near and Middle East regions. In this struggle, the fate of the battles was decided in many cases by the strength of the allies of the parties. As a result, the allies who joined the struggle themselves became the owners of the region, the Sassanids and Eastern Rome (Byzantium) were forced to make concessions to them in the region. In the mentioned period, one of the hot spots of the region was Iravan and its surrounding areas. In the sources, these areas are mentioned in different ways. In Arab sources, Iravan and its surrounding areas can be included mainly as Dabil (or Duvin) and Sisajan, and in Christian sources as Dvin and Syunik/Sisakan.

In the battles of 602-629, the region becomes a war zone between the Sassanids and Byzantium. In the first phase of the war, the Sassanid ruler Khosrow II (591-628) gained the upper hand and even managed to besiege Constantinople. Undoubtedly, Iravan and its surroundings had an important position in these battles. In 623, Irakli II captured Dabil and its surroundings, but he could not strengthen himself there. However, the Byzantine emperor Irakli II (610-641), who managed to establish an alliance with the Goyturk state, was able to gain an upper hand in the fight against the Sassanids. According to the peace agreement signed by Irakli with Jebu (Yabgu) Khan in 625/26, Turkish troops entered Albania in 627. Although Tiflis and its surroundings were not captured by the combined troops of Irakli II and Jebu during the first attack, later, Jebu Khan captured Tiflis, Iravan and its surroundings, and all of Albania during the second campaign. At that time, according to the peace treaty signed between the son of Jebu khagan Shad and Catholicos Viro, Albania was included in the borders of the Goyturk empire.

During the 30s of the 7th century, a new force that emerged in the Near and Middle East – the Caliphate – overturned the balance of all forces in the region. The Sassanids and Byzantium were extremely weakened as a result of their wars with each other. Especially the Sassanids could not last for a long time in front of this force. Thus, as a result of this struggle, the Sasanian state completely lost its existence, and Byzantium was deprived of its southern and eastern provinces.

The first marches of the caliphate to historical areas around Irevan were expeditionary. In the attack of Iyad bin Ghanem in 640/641, the Christian troops in and around Dabil were defeated, after this victory, the Caliphate troops returned to their positions.

As a result of Habib ibn Maslama’s campaigns, Dabil was peacefully brought under the control of the Caliphate during the reign of Caliph Osman (644-656). According to Belazuri, Habib signed an agreement with them on the condition that they pay certain taxes, treat Muslims kindly, and help them against the enemy. The lives, property, churches, monasteries, cities, and fortresses of the population were secured by this treaty. On the same terms, the people of Nakhchivan submitted peacefully to Habib, while the people of Sisajan first fought against Habib, and after being defeated, they signed a peace treaty with similar conditions.

During the reign of the Caliphate, famous generals such as Khuzayma ibn Hazim, Yazid ibn Mazyad, Muhammad ibn Yazid al-Sheybani ruled the region as governors. For the first time, Khuzeyma measured the lands between Nakhchivan and Dabil in order to collect taxes. It should be noted that Yazid ibn Mazyad and Muhammad ibn Yazid al-Sheybani left a great track in the history of Azerbaijan statehood and were representatives of the Mazyadis, the ruling dynasty of the Shirvanshahs state.

During the Caliphate administration, Dabil and its surroundings were combined into one administrative unit together with Shirak (Shoreyel) and Nakhchivan. In Arabic sources, the region of Sisajan (Syunik) is indicated in many cases as a part of the region of Arran. Belazuri stated that these lands belonged to the Khazar Turks before the Arabs. Yaqubi noted that the Khazars ruled the South Caucasus before the Arabs, and that they had a caliph named Yezid Balash in Arran, Georgia, Busfurrajan and Sisajan.

At the beginning of the 9th century, Iravan and its surrounding regions were closely involved in Babak’s freedom struggle against Arab oppression. The Albanian noble families here, especially Syunik governer Sahl ibn Sunbat from the Albanian Mehran dynasty, became his close allies. Later, in order to protect his public position, Sahl ibn Sunbat decided to part ways with Babek. In the later period, Sahl ibn Sunbat arrested Babek and handed him over to the Arabs, and in return he became the administrator of the South Caucasus for a period of time.

The Babak movement weakened the power of the Abbasid caliphate in the region and restored the traditions of statehood in Azerbaijan. It was the result of this that from the 9th century, dynasties such as the Sajoguls, Shirvanshahs, Salaris, Shaddadis, and Ravvadis began to rule Azerbaijan as a whole, and sometimes certain regions of Azerbaijan.

It is known from Tabari that in 893, a big earthquake occurred in Dabil, near Iravan, and a large part of the city’s population died in this earthquake.

Sacogullari from these states successfully fought against the invasion marches of the neighboring Christian rulers and crushed their usurping policies. Although the ruler Yusuf ibn Abu Saj (901–928) warned Sumbat (890–914), who occupied Dabil at that time, to submit to the central authority, it had no effect. Finally, in 908, he defeated Sumbat in Yusif Nig area, took his son Musheg to Dvin and poisoned him to death. In 915, he executed Sumbat by hanging in Dabil.

Even after this period, the Christian feudal lords in the western borders of the Sajogul family posed a threat, tried to become independent by calling the Byzantine state for help, and wanted to get rid of the dependency. In one such attempt, the ruler of Sacoglu, Muflih, destroyed the Byzantine forces near Khilat in 931 and restored the security of the western borders of Azerbaijan.

After the fall of the Saji state, Irean and the surrounding regions came under the rule of the Shaddadis in 951. During the captivity of Salari Marzban ibn Muhammad (941-957), the people of Dabil invited Muhammad ibn Shaddad to the city to fight against the Christians and the surrounding pagans, and entrusted him with the defense of the city. Muhammad became famous in a short time due to his victories over the Christians, and built a new fortress called Tell-Fazli around Dabil. But later, when the Salaris regained their power here, the Shaddadis were forced to leave Dabil.

In 971, the Shaddadis were invited to Ganja, where they strengthened themselves and succeeded in subduing the surrounding regions. During the reign of Fazl I (985–1031), Irevan and its surroundings, as well as the city of Dabil, which was the ancestral home of the Shaddadis, were again included under the rule of the Shaddadis. With Dabil as the center, it is estimated that Irevan and its surroundings were ruled semi-independently until Abulasvar Shavur came to power on the Shaddadi throne (1022–1049). During his administration, he successfully defended that region from the usurping policy of Christian feudal lords in the west. This dual power in Shaddad continued even after Shavur seized the main throne. Thus, after Shavur ascended the throne in Ganja, he entrusted the administration of Dabil to his son Abanesr Iskandar in 1053/54.

Starting from the 11th century, the Seljuk Oghuz tribes began to move into Azerbaijan. The arrival of the Seljuk Oghuz tribes was warmly welcomed by the Azerbaijani population. For them, the Oghuz were reliable allies against the Byzantine Empire and its allies, which constantly threatened the region. Therefore, Azerbaijani rulers had sermons read in the name of Seljuk sultan Tughril. The prolonged rule of Shahrukh in and around Iravan and his resistance against the Byzantine and allied forces did not escape from the attention of Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan. This is why Alp Arslan, in 1065, granted the territories he captured during his campaign against the Byzantine Empire to Shahrukh’s son, Shahvar.

From this time until the establishment of the Atabeg state, Irevan and its surroundings remained under the control of the Shaddadids. Later, Oghuz emirs began to rule the region. It is known that the region was under the rule of Amir Qaraja in 1177. He ruled these lands under the leadership of Atabeg ruler Qizil Arslan (1186-1191) and pacified the disputes in the region. Amir Qaraja was later defeated and killed in a battle against a Muslim emir. Taking advantage of this, Christian feudal lords attacked Dabil in 1182, committing a massacre among the Muslim population. As a result of this massacre, the ruler of Dabil, Alişir, lost both his son and his wife.

Despite the treacherous attacks on Dabil, the Atabeg state quickly regained control over Iravan and its surroundings. However, after the death of Atabeg Qizil Arslan, internal conflicts weakened central authority. As a result, Iravan and its surroundings came under the rule of the Mkharqrdzeli brothers from Abkhazia-Kartli in 1203. In 1225, Khwarezmshah Jalal ad-Din liberated the region from the occupation forces, but the emergence of a new power, the Mongols, prevented his rule from lasting long in the region.

With the establishment of the Ilkhanate in the mid-13th century, the territories around Iravan in Azerbaijan remained within the sphere of influence of this state. During this period, the name “Azerbaijan” referred to a central province of this state, covering a vast area. The territories around Iravan were administratively part of the Nakhchivan sanjak, according to sources. According to Hafiz Abru, the Nakhchivan sanjak became one of the nine sanjaks of Azerbaijan (considering South Azerbaijan) at that time. Its eastern borders extended from Ganja to Surmeli. According to information provided by Hafiz Abru and Dovletshah Samarqandi, the Nakhchivan sanjak covered a vast area. It bordered the Armenian province in the west and encompassed a large area from Makudan to Qapan mountains in the east. In fact, the Nakhchivan sanjak united the territories on both sides of the Araz River, including Dabil (Dvin) city, and encompassed a wide area. Arab geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi wrote: “Dvin is located in the Arran province, at the far borders of Azerbaijan.”

Based on the information provided by Abu Bakr al-Qutbi al-Ahrari in 1338, V.Z. Piriyev writes that in 1338, the regions of Sharur and Dabil were ruled by Nacibey, the son of Akanji. Due to the fact that the territories up to Surmali in the west were included in the Nakhchivan district, the areas around Irevan were part of the Nakhchivan district during the Elkhanis and Jalairis periods.

In the last quarter of the 14th century, the Karagoyunlu tribe began to rise in the western region of Azerbaijan in Nakhchivan, Surmeli and Khoi regions. The Sadli tribe was one of the 13 tribes included in the Karagoyunlu tribe union. The Sadli tribe had a great role in the Karagoyunlu tribe union. This tribe got its name from the name of a gentleman named Saad in the 14th century. Hafiz Ebru noted that the Sadli tribe, one of the main tribes of the Karagoyun people, lived in Nakhchivan and the Surmeli region from ancient times. Foma Metsopski also reported about a brave Turkmen gentleman named Saad at the end of the 14th century. According to the information provided by Hafiz Abru and Dovlatshah Samarkandi, the Sadli people were cousins with the rulers of Garagoyunlu. Therefore, emirs from this tribe played an important role in the creation and strengthening of the Karagoyunlu state of Azerbaijan.

In the late 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century, the ancient homeland of the Sadi tribe- the territory of Nakhchivan and Surmeli, came under the rule of the Sadi tribe, led by Amir Sadi. This is why the territory where the Sadi tribe lived is known as “Chukhursad.” All scholarly views about the name of the Chukhursad region confirm that the name of the region was derived from the names of the ancient Azerbaijani Turkic tribes. This undeniable historical fact highlights that one of the Azerbaijani tribes, the Sadi tribe, was part of the Akkoyunlu tribal union. In the source of the period, when talking about Amir Teymur’s campaigns, it is mentioned that Amir Saad was the ruler of Chukhursad.

Sadli ruler Amir Saad, who died in 1411, was buried near Irevan. After the death of Amir Saad, the ruler of Chukhursad province was his son Pir Huseyn. On October 11, 1413, his son Pir Huseyn erected a mausoleum over his father’s grave and wrote an Arabic text. During the time of Pir Huseyn, the administrative center of Sadi was Irevan. L. Bretanitsky called the Amir Saad mausoleum a unique form of “transition” from the brick architecture form of Momina-khatun mausoleum to stone architecture.

The first part of the inscription in the Arabic language of the mausoleum begins with the name of the Merciful God and the 255th verse of Surah al-Baqara of the “Quran”, which is found in many tombs. Then the names of a number of historical figures of the Karagoyunlu state of Azerbaijan are mentioned. It is written in the inscription: “This sacred vault was built by the order of Pir Huseyn, the son of Amir Saad, who is the greatest, the most beautiful, the most noble, the supporter of good-natured kings and sultans, the defender of the poor and the needed, the protege of the intelligent and those who are thirsty for knowledge, the protecter of the impoverished and the sufferers. Let him have a fair way of governing. May Amir Saad rest in peace. May God perpetuate the reign of the great king, the noble khagan, the king of kings of the East and the West, the pillar of the state and religion, Pir Budag Khan and Yusif Noya. Hijri 816, 15th of the Rajab month.” This date coincides with October 11, 1413 according to the Christian calendar.

Armenian sources confirm that Chukhursad is the historical land of Azerbaijan. Armenian sources call this place “Sahata pos” – “Hollow of the Sahad” or “Yerkin Sahar” – “Country of the Sahar”.

The toponym Chukhursad was mentioned in official documents for the first time in 1428 in an Arabic-language document related to the ownership of the village of Uchkilsa. From the purchase and sale document dated November 18, 1428, it can be seen that the said village was sold to Bishop Grigor by Sheikh Muhammad ibn-Dehkhuda on behalf of Muluk Khatun, the daughter of Pir Huseyn Sadli. In that document, written in Arabic, the witnesses also called themselves “Sadli”. In the Persian-language sources, the name of Chukhursad was found for the first time in the work “Kitabi-Diyarbakriya” by Abu Bakr Tehrani. Faruk Sumer writes about this: “… According to my conclusion after long research, the area called Chukhursad by Iranian authors was a region in the western and southwestern part of Irevan. In Ottoman sources, it is named as “Saad hollow”. This area extended to the confluence of Araz and Arpachay in the west, and to Araz in the south.”

As mentioned above, Surmeli, which covers the areas from the confluence of Arpachay with Araz to Nakhchivan and the right bank of Araz to Aghridagh, was the ancient home of the Sadli tribe. In the 15th century, the valley surrounding the bank of Araz and between the Aghridagh and Alagoz mountains was also under the control of the Sadli. The Teymuri historian Hafiz Ebru Sultan, while talking about Shahrukh’s marches to Azerbaijan, noted that Nakhchivan and Surmali region were the ancient home of the Sadli tribe. This fact is confirmed by Timurid historian Abdurrazzaq Samarkandi in his work “Matlus-saadeyn wa majmaul-bahrain”.

It should be noted that the village of Jafarabad, where the tomb of Amir Saad is located, was later separated from the ancient village of Goykumbat, which is adjacent to it. Therefore, the tomb of Amir Saad fell on the territory of the newly formed Jafarabad village. The name of Goykumbat village was related to the blue dome of Amir Saad’s mausoleum located in its territory. The name of this village is mentioned as Goygunbez in some sources. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR changed the name of Jafarabad village, which is included in the administrative-territorial division of Zangibasar (Masis) district, to “Argavand” by the decision dated April 4, 1946, and the name of Goykumbat village was changed to “Gekhanist” on December 1, 1949.

In the village of Goykumbat, there was a cemetery of the leaders of the Sadli tribe, which was part of the Garagoyunlu tribe. There were several tombs in that cemetery, only one of which – the tomb of Amir Saad has survived to this day.

A year after the death of Amir Teymur, the leader of the Karagoyunlu tribe, Gara Yusif, in October 1406, defeated Abu Bakr in the territory of Chukhursad, west of Nakhchivan, on the banks of the Araz River and forced him to flee. Pir Huseyn Sadli led the right wing of Gara Yusif’s army in that battle. As a result of the victory, the rule of Timurids in the region was ended. Gara Yusif entrusted the management of the region to Pir Huseyn, the head of the Sadli tribe and the son of Amir Saad, who ruled the region since the end of the 14th century. On April 21, 1408, Pir Huseyn Sadli led the left wing of the Gara Yusif’s army in a decisive battle against the Timurids in Sarrud near Tabriz. His brother Pir Muhammad was also in that wing. Gara Yusif’s great victory in the battle with the Timurids led to the end of the Timurid rule in Azerbaijan and the creation of the Karagoyunlu state of Azerbaijan with Tabriz as its capital. In 1410, Pir Huseyn Sadli led the right wing of Gara Yusif’s army in the battle with Sultan Ahmad Jalairi in Asad village near Tabriz. His brother, Pir Muhammad Sadli, along with other Karagoyunlu emirs, also took part in that wing.

In 1410, when the Karagoyunlus, an Azerbaijani dynasty, came to power in Tabriz, the Sadlis were the owners of the territories around Irevan and became the main support of the newly formed state.

Pir Huseyn Sadli and his brother Pir Muhammad Sadli played an important role in the creation and strengthening of the Karagoyunlu state of Azerbaijan. In November 1420, Sultan Shahrukh took advantage of the death of Kara Yusif and strengthened himself in Azerbaijan. Abubakr Tehrani writes that it was at this time that “Isfahan Bey (son of Gara Yusif) was put on the throne of the Sadli community in Azerbaijan. He captured the treasury and the Bayazid fortress. He wintered in Chukhursad.” As it can be seen, the Sadli tribe, which played a fundamental role in the creation of the Karagoyunlu state, formed its main support even in the most difficult times of the state. The areas surrounding Irevan, including the administration of Chukhursad province, were entrusted to them by the central government as the hereditary property of the Sadli tribe for a long time.

Iskandar, who came to the throne of Garagoyunlu in 1420, removed the successors of Amir Pir Huseyn from the administration of the province because they sided with his rival for the throne, his brother Abu Said, and directly subordinated Chukhursad’s administration to the central government. At that time, Chukhursad province bordered Georgia in the north (Kartli kingdom after Georgia was divided in 1469), Nakhchivan, Gafan and Karabakh provinces in the east, Samskhe-Saatabago, Pasin, Alashgird and Bayazid in the west, and Maku in the south.

At the end of July 1421, in the battle between Karagoyunlu Kara Iskandar and the Timurid ruler Shahrukh, Pir Huseyn Sadli led the right wing of the Karagoyunlu army, and his son Pir Ghaib, his brothers Pir Uweis and Pir Muhammad took part in that wing. As the battle ended with the defeat of the Karagoyunlu, Pir Muhammad Sadli, Pir Uweis and Pir Ghayib were captured. Hasan Bey Rumlu writes that “Amir Ibrahim Jahanshah showed bravery on the left flank and captured Pir Huseyn Bey Sadli, one of Mirza Iskandar’s great amirs.” According to the author of “History of the Qizilbash”, Pir Huseyn Sadli was killed by the servants of Timurid ruler Shahrukh in the Battle of Alashgird.

After the assassination of Pir Hussain Sadli, his sons (Pir Qaib and Abdul) were still closely involved in the management of their hereditary estates. During the second march of Timurid ruler Shahrukh to Azerbaijan in 1429, Karagoyunlu ruler Kara Iskander was defeated in the battle of Salmas and had to retreat to Eastern Anatolia. Sultan Shahrukh returned by giving the Karagoyunlu throne to Abu Said, the youngest son of Kara Yusif, and Abu Said began to rule the state as a vassal of Sultan Shahrukh. Because he was weak-willed, a serious struggle arose between the Karagoyunlu emirs. Taking advantage of the situation, Kara Iskander killed his brother Abu Said in 1431 and regained power with the help of dissatisfied emirs.   

It seems that it was during this period that Kara Iskander punished one of the Sadli emirs, Pir Qaib Abdul, who had defended his brother Abu Said when he supressed the rebellious emirs. Kara Iskander tried to limit their rights and strengthen the central authority by punishing the rebellious emirs. The Sadli emirs were removed from Chukhursad’s administration, and the province was directly administered by the central Diwan. B. A. Budagov and G. A. Geibullayev, among the researchers, point out that there are settlements called Saatli in Borchali and Karabakh, and write that in 1431, after Kara Iskander broke the authority of the Sadli emirs in Chukhursad, a part of the Sadli people moved to Gazakh district, and later to Karabakh.

Although the measures taken by Kara Iskander to strengthen the central authority weakened the position of the Sadli in Chukhursad, the Sadli emirs were closely involved in the management of other provinces of the state. Huseyn Sadli was the ruler of Astrabad during Jahanshah’s reign. It is interesting that during the time of Kara Iskander, the priests of the Uchkilsa monastery located in Chukhursad started to buy the surrounding villages from the Sadli community. It can be seen from the purchase and sale documents that Amir Rustam, who converted to Islam, had a great role in strengthening the central power of Kara Iskander. Emir Rustam became Gara Iskander’s closest comrade-in-arms after the victory over his brother Abu Said, so he gave him large retinues in Chukhursad. It seems that it was during this period that Amir Rustam took advantage of the situation and bought certain villages located in the Karpi district of Chukhursad province of Azerbaijan and endowed the Uchkilsa monastery, as stated in the sales documents.  

The killing of Kara Iskandar’s brother Abu Said and the restoration of the former glory of the Karagoyunlu state led to the next march of Shahrukh, the ruler of Timurid, to Azerbaijan. When he left Karabakh and came to Ujan in May 1436, he gave the rulership of Azerbaijan to Jahanshah under the condition of accepting vassalage.

When Timurid Sultan left Azerbaijan, Iskandar returned to Azerbaijan from the Ottoman lands where he had taken refuge. Abu Bakr Tehrani writes that “as a result of Iskander’s oppression of the army and the population, the leaders of the Azerbaijani fortresses, who hated him, gave all other fortresses to Jahanshah Mirza, except the Alinja fortress.” But at that time Alinja fortress and Nakhchivan remained under the control of forces loyal to Iskander.

When Iskandar was in Alinja fortress, his son Shah Gubad decided to kill his father, entered Iskander’s bedroom with forty people and killed him, captured the treasure and distributed some of it to the army and told this event to his uncle Jahanshah. Half of the treasury, Avnik fortress and Pasin province were given to him by Jahanshah. With that, the Alinja fortress came under the control of Jahanshah.

During the reign of Jahanshah, an event took place in the history of Chukhursad province, which later caused extremely serious problems for all of Azerbaijan: with the permission of Jahanshah, in 1441, the seat of the Armenian Catholicos was moved from Sis in Cilicia to Uchkilsa monastery near Iravan. This created favorable conditions for Armenian missionaries spreading Gregorianism in the South Caucasus. The Karagoyunlu rulers protected the Armenian Catholicos and gave them freedom. Since then, Uchkilsa monastery, located in Chukhursad region of Azerbaijan, has become the religious center of all Armenians.

After Karagoyunlu, the position of Uchkilsa Catholicos, who sided with Aggoyunlu, became stronger. Thus, with the permission of the rulers of Garagoyunlu and Aggoyunlu, Armenian churches were built in Azerbaijan.

Tofiq Najafli

 Doctor of historical sciences, associate professor

Rashad Mustafa

PhD in History

Ramin Alizade