THE HISTORY OF AZERBAIJAN – (I) (Until the Seljuks…)
THE HISTORY OF AZERBAIJAN – (I)
(Until the Seljuks…)
Since the ancient times, several views have been put forward on the position of Azerbaijan, the Turkish homeland that constitutes a bridge between the east and the west. In ancient times, the northwestern provinces of Medya (the land of the Meds), at times Arran and Sirvan, and the Caucasian Azerbaijan after the foundation of the Republic of Azerbaijan (May 28, 1918) have been stated as Azerbaijan geographically. Consisting of Tabriz and its vicinity until the 20th Century, Northwestern Iran was known as Azerbaijan; however after the foundation of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Southeastern Caucasus, this region has been regarded as Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, the linguistic, cultural and ethnographic values of regional people, as well as historical facts, should be taken into consideration while setting the borders of Azerbaijan.
In history, the borders of Azerbaijan have broadened or narrowed depending on the strength of states ruling the country. For this reason, it would be more realistic to consider the territories where Turks have lived as Azerbaijan. The combination of Turkish communities like Oghuz and Kuman (Qipchak) that settled in the region since the second half of the 11th Century, and the Uyghur, Uzbek, Kazak and Tatar people that arrived with the Moghul Armies has resulted in the Turkish entity that calls itself Azeri that has a population of around 30-35 million in Iran and the USSR. In regard with history, language and ethnography, Azerbaijan is a wider country than the region enclosed by the Caspian Sea in the east, Dagestan in the north, Georgia in the northwest, Armenia in the southwest and Iran in the south, that is the borders of May 28, 1918. Iraq-i Acem, that is the region lying between the southeastern ends of the Caucasian Mountains to the south of Lake Urmia, Cibal Deylem, Gilan, Arran, Sirvan, the islands of Nargin and Vulf around the Avsaran Peninsula at the Caspian Sea, and the large and small islands in the Gulf of Kizilagac like Sari Ada and Duvan are located within the borders of Azerbaijan. Including the territories in Russia and Iran, the total surface area of Azerbaijan is 198,37 km2.
There is no agreement on the name of Azerbaijan, either. The most ancient known names in history are Adhurbadhaghan or Adharbadhagan. This name is known as Atrpatakan by Armenians, Atropatene by Hellenic people, and Aderbigan by Syriacs. The most ancient claim on the name of Azerbaijan is that the Iranian Atropatnes, the satrap (governor) appointed by Alexander arrived there in 328 BC. This name took its place in Farsi as Azerbad, and the name of the region became Azerbadgan, meaning “the Land of Atropateness”.
Circles trying to define the word etymologically prefer a definition comprising the word “Azer”, which means “fire”, and “gan” that means place, derived from the geological location of the region. The word Atropat, used to define a part of Iran since 227 BC, has been Arabicized following the arrival of Islamic armies, turned into “Azerbaijan” and maintained this name till the present time.
The settlement of Turks in the region of Azerbaijan has continued in intervals since ancient times. Between 1000-500 BC, the Qipchak Steppes in northern Black Sea became the settlement of communities of Asian origin. These are called Skuthoi in Greek sources, and Asbkuzai in Assyrian sources. These communities known generally as Iskits are the “Saka Turks”. In 7thCentury BC, the Caucasus and Azerbaijan are observed to be the most desired land between Sakas and Persians. The city of Sakasan, the center of the Saka communities in Azerbaijan, is located within the Uti province close to Girdiman in Samhorcay. It is possible to come across with memories about Afrasyab, the legendary hero of Sakas. It is commonly said that the cut head of Afrasyab was buried under the Darvaze Sar gate of Tabriz, and that Sange Surah in Arran was the last shelter of Afrasyab.
Another Turkish incursion carried out through the Caucasus to Azerbaijan and Anatolia is the Anatolian Campaign of the Asian Hun Turks dating back to 395. The Hun tribes from the Don River region, commanded by chiefs named Basak and Kursak, arrived to Malatya and Cukurova along the Qarasu-Euphrates Valley through Erzurum presently located in Turkey; besieged the cities of Urfa, Antakye and Sur, and reached the environs of Jerusalem. This military campaign that terrified the Sasanis (one of the great kingdoms of Iran), and ended in the return of the Huns to Azerbaijan as quickly over Central Anatolia, and then to their bases. Three years later, in 398, a second Hun incursion, similar to the first one, was observed.
In 451, coming through the Caucasus, the Huns settled in the south of Mughan and founded there a city called Balasagun. The Huns, called Halanduruk or Haylendurk (Armenian) in several sources, are called Kurd or Ekrad-a Bilasagun in Arabic sources. Calling themselves the Mughan Kurds or Mugan Turkmen during the reign of the Harzemshahs, these communities are most probably the remnants of the Akhuns.
The second biggest wave of migration occurred in 466 and the Aghaceri Turkish tribes, belonging to the European Huns, settled in Azerbaijan. Sasani sources call these people “Ak Katlan”, and the Byzantines name them “Akatzir”. A part of the Aghaceris that settled in Azerbaijan moved to Aleppo and Damascus between 1180-1412, and another part settled in and around Erdebil in Southern Azerbaijan.
The third wave of migration to Azerbaijan was carried out by the Sabirs. The Sabirs (Savar, Savir, Suvar or Sibir), crossing Derbent in 558 and the Kur River in 575, settled in between Baku and Kuba, and in Lenkeran. Along with the Sabirs, the Bulgarian and Belencar Turks, united as under the name “Hazar”, settled in the regions of Arran, Mughan, Gilan and Lenkeran. They would play a considerably important role in the establishment of the Hazar Turkish State. Later on, the biggest lake in Asia would be named after this Turkish state: The Caspian (Hazar) Sea.
During the incursion of the Muslim Armies to Azerbaijan, this place was belonging to the Hazar Empire, having Erdebil as their center. During the invasion, Arabs saw Maragha fit to being their military encampment. Arabs settled in Azerbaijan in the form of an invasion, several Arab tribes were settled in the region, and the local entities, deprived of their lands, became slaves of the newcomers. Along with Arabs, several Turkish communities that accepted Islam also arrived in Azerbaijan. Particularly, commanders of Turkish origin in the Abbasid Period (750-1258) led the settlement of several Turkish entities in the region. The new Turkish settlers of the region became a great source of confidence for commanders of Turkish origin serving in the Abbasid Army. Mubarek et-Turki, one of these Turkish commanders, had the inner castle of Ghazvin repaired and gave his name there. Zirek el-Turki, another Turkish commander, was sent by Caliph Mutevekkil to suppress the Beni Bu’ays Commanders that revolted in Merand (848). Later on, another Turkish commander named Muhammed B. Sul was appointed as the governor of Armenia and Azerbaijan. On the other hand, Turkish commander Buga arrived in Azerbaijan with a force of 4000 troops and settled around 20.000 Hazar and Bulgarian Turks in Shamkhor. Constituting one of the most important events in 8th Century, the Babek uprising broke out in Azerbaijan and Turkish commanders and Turkish armies proved highly effective in suppressing this rebellion. Uprising in the city of Al-Bazz, Babek quickly seized power in Armenia, Esfahan, Mosul and Hamedan (816-817). Caliph Mutasem (833-82) assigned Iranian commander el-Afsin Haydar b. Kavus to suppress the uprising (June 3, 835). Later on Babek was delivered to the Caliph and was executed upon his order in January 4, 838.
Following the dominance of the Arabs in Azerbaijan, the Arabic language and literature became influential in the Arabization of the region, but after a short while this dissipated within the Farsi language and culture. Starting from the second half of the 9th Century, the Abbasid Stated started to tremble and local families started to act semi-independently in their own regions occasionally. One of those was the Sac sons Family that ruled Azerbaijan. This principality (889/890-929) founded by Muhammed el-Afsin, son of Abu’s Sac Divdad B. Yusuf Divdest, was the first “Semi-Independent Turkish Principality” in the region. Following Sac sons, until the arrival of the Seljuks, several principalities ruled Azerbaijan.
Until the 9th Century, the Turkish migration to Azerbaijan has taken place in the north of the Caucasus. The Turkish communities that settled in Azerbaijan as a result of these intermittent migrations, blended with native communities. Assimilated, most of these Turks were represented by local elements. The ones who could endure were blended with the Turkmen communities that arrived in Azerbaijan subsequently. However, the actual Turkish settlement in Azerbaijan started with the Seljuks, accelerated in the reign of the Ilhanlis, and completed in the Karakoyunlu, Akkoyunlu and Safevi Dynasties. In this context, the Turkish tribes that arrived and settled in the region in the 11th Century can be considered as the ancestors of Turks in present day Azerbaijan.
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