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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 VII – The Timurid Empire

Extract

Chapter VIIThe Timurid Empire

The demise of the ilkhanid state fuelled the struggle for power between the Azerbaijani emirs as they succeeded one another and tried to reinforce their authority through the ongoing use of force.1 Despite this unstable political situation, for a few decades the country had enjoyed a reprieve from the military conquests of the major powers. Shirvan, which had full control over its economic and military resources, regained its independence, although for a few short periods it had to recognise the suzerainty of the Jalayirid dynasties.2 However, armed interventions from the Golden Horde quickly resumed in northern Azerbaijan at a time when Timur (1370–1405), also known as Tamerlane due to Westerners’ pronunciation of his nickname Timur-Lang (which the masses commonly used to refer to him due to his invalidity), set about creating a vast empire in Central Asia. He considered himself to be the successor to Genghis Khan and was a man of great ambition; he justified most of his conquests by the need to establish order, but also to protect the Muslim faith3, two reasons he would use to achieve his objectives, although he did not hesitate to persecute Muslims as required.4 He renounced the titles of King and Sultan and agreed to be known as a Prince (Emir).5

7.1. Tamerlane’s conquest of Azerbaijan and the alliance with the Shirvanshah

Azerbaijan was occupied by Tamerlane when his first military campaign (1386–1387) was completed. The population, tired from...

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