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Azerbaijan at the Crossroads of Eurasia

The Tumultuous Fate of a Nation Caught Up Between the Rivalries of the World’s Major Powers

Fazil Zeynalov

Modern Azerbaijan came into being in 1991 following a national struggle for the re-establishment of its independence, initiated long before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is situated in a unique geographic location, at the crossroads of Eurasia and on the famous Silk Road that links Europe and Asia. It has been the stage of particularly rich historical events, testament to its ancient State traditions, the wealth of its cities, the violence of the imperial invasions. Today this secular country, facing war with Armenia, is central to the geopolitical stakes in the region, whether in terms of the international strategies of major powers or the geo-economic considerations of oil and gas exports to Europe. It has put in place a multi-faceted foreign policy and initiated political and economic reforms as it moves towards a better future.

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Chapter II – The Arab conquest of Azerbaijan

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Chapter IIThe Arab conquest of Azerbaijan

Arab interest in Azerbaijan can of course be explained by their desire for conquests, but also by the strategic location of the country, which was a key factor in securing the territories placed under the authority of the caliph.

2.1. Military success and undeniable influence, in spite of Byzantine and Khazar ambitions

Following the conversion of the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula, the leaders of the new ecclesiastical power, known as caliphs (successors), sought to propagate the new Muslim faith beyond the confines of their territory. The use of force in the name of religion inexorably led to the conquest of neighbouring territories, which also represented a source of increased wealth, thus inciting the invaders to pursue their military exploits. According to historian Naila Velikhanli, the conditions in Arab society were therefore conducive to military conquests. In light of this, news of the first victories heralded the beginning of a new era and encouraged all Arabs to work towards the achievement of a common goal based on private interests.1

The Arab troops crossed the borders and in 633 attacked the Sassanids, taking just 20 years to bring an end to their reign, which had lasted for many hundreds. They soon reached the outer limits of southern Azerbaijan2 and gradually began to take control of its towns and provinces. The governor of the territories of Atropatena was the first to face attack from the Arab forces. He...

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