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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 IX – The Azerbaijani State of Ak Koyunlu

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Chapter IXThe Azerbaijani State of Ak Koyunlu

The second half of the 15th century saw the rise to power of the Ak Koyunlu State.1 Initially it was a small feudal principality located around Diyarbakir which managed to expand its borders as far as Central Asia and maintain diplomatic and military relations with several European States. The Ak Koyunlu sovereigns were rivals of the Ottoman Sultans, towards whom they felt long-standing animosity, and they fought alongside Tamerlane in the battle of Ankara in 1402. Since that event, their relations had become even more strained and their diverging interests placed them in opposing camps and encouraged them to establish rear alliances. This rivalry was to last almost until the decline and disappearance of the Ak Koyunlu State, to be replaced by another Azerbaijani Safavid State.

9.1. The rise to power of the Ak Koyunlu State

The Ak Koyunlu federation of Turkic tribes was led by the representatives of the Bayandur dynasty, the most illustrious of whom was Uzun Hasan (1453–1478). He enjoyed significant military successes which his father Alibek (1434–1453) and grandfather Osman Yuluk (1394–1434), the State’s founder, had been unable to achieve. Under his reign, the power of the Ak Koyunlu was considerably strengthened. He extended his authority to cover all of Azerbaijan (with the exception of two Azerbaijani States – Shirvanshah and the principality of Ardebil – which preserved their status and with which he maintained excellent relations), which became the main centre...

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