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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 X – The Safavid State: a new regional power

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Chapter XThe Safavid State: a new regional power

The safavids headed a political entity throughout the 15th century, at the end of which they became a major regional player. They led a popular movement based around the religious ideology of Shi’ism, although at that time Sunni Islam was dominant within the successive States of Azerbaijan. They inspired confidence and had the support of the population, especially peasants and poor urban dwellers; they gradually managed to strengthen their numbers and extend their influence beyond the city of Ardebil to areas around Azerbaijan, Asia Minor in particular. They had the capacity to defeat considerable armies and protect their succession in a regional climate that was difficult, before also taking in hand the destiny of Azerbaijan. By conquering new territories, they managed to establish a truly multi-ethnic and multi-faith empire which became a key player in the regional balance of power.

10.1. The creation of a new State by the Azerbaijani Safavid dynasty

Following several aborted attempts, the Safavid dynasty succeeded in establishing its authority over Azerbaijan.

10.1.1. The first failed attempts

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