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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 V – The Azerbaijani State of the Atabegs


Chapter VThe Azerbaijani State of the Atabegs

The break-up of the seljukid empire into several different independent sultanates (principalities) favoured the formation of a new type of state that would be organised by tutors primarily responsible for educating the young princes and heirs to the Seljukid throne, but “effectively enjoying all of the rights of princes, including the privilege of government”.1 They were known as “Atabegs” (a word of Turkic origin meaning “father-governor” or “father of the prince”). “Over time, the Atabegs enjoyed increasing strength and became the State’s real political decision-makers, while the Sultans, whose names were engraved on coins and recited in Friday prayers, remained the holders of formal power”.2 The Atabegs, who formed their own dynasty, can be identified as follows: 1) the Atabegs of Azerbaijan, 2) the Atabegs of Iraq, 3) the Atabegs of Persia and 4) the Atabegs of Lorestan.

Researchers have divided the history of the Atabegs of Azerbaijan into three periods: their formation (1136–1160), prosperity (1161–1191) and decline (1191–1225).3 The first and second periods coincided with the rise in power of the State, while the third was marked by its inexorably weakened position.

5.1. The promotion of Shamsaddin Eldegiz, founder of the Atabegs of Azerbaijan

Shamsaddin Eldegiz (1136–1175), who founded the State, was not a representative of any royal dynasty. He came from a modest Azerbaijani family, having lost his parents at a very young age and experienced...

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