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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 IV – The reign of the Seljukids


Chapter IVThe reign of the Seljukids

In the middle of the 11th century, the independent Azerbaijani States were not in a position to combine their efforts and ward off the appetite of external powers for imperial domination. This was due to political rivalries, the absence of close links and the relative balance of power. Their geographic location was of clear strategic and economic appeal. This did not go unnoticed by the Seljukids, who strengthened their position in Central Asia and sought to conquer new territories. After the breakup of the Caliphate, they built the First Empire, which included vast swathes of the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia.

4.1. The emergence of a new imperial power

The Seljukid dynasty originated in the “Kinic” tribe, a branch of the “Oghuz”, whose kingdom on the territories between the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea in Central Asia became a major military power under the authority of Seljuk (the dynasty’s founder) at the beginning of the 10th century. It was under his reign that the Seljukids converted to Islam and gradually extended their influence towards the south and west.1 His successors adopted a cautious strategy of conquest which involved reinforcing their occupied territories before taking on new military exploits. The limited number of their available troops did not allow them to engage in one campaign after another; they were forced to take the time needed to mobilise their resources and prepare the foundations for each new...

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