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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 XI – The era of the khanates, independent and sovereign feudal States

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Chapter XIThe era of the khanates, independent and sovereign feudal States

The characteristic feature of the situation in Azerbaijan in the second half of the 18th century was the emergence of the khanates, independent and sovereign feudal States, but also the lack of political unity. Each entity was governed by a Khan, a title borne by the Mongol sovereigns but which was also used during the time of the Safavids to identify provincial governors who held an important position within the administrative hierarchy. The Azerbaijani sovereigns retained this title as they did not intend to build a new empire but rather to defend their newly acquired sovereignty. They proved unable to unify all of the territories of Azerbaijan under the authority of a single centralised State. Each defended their own interests, seeking to maintain their authority at all costs within the confines of their borders, and also to expand their territories and the number of their taxpayers, an indication of wealth and power. Internal rivalries, the absence of close economic ties between these political entities, and the hostile intentions of the major neighbouring powers, Russia and Iran in particular, made any efforts to achieve political unity impossible. A few initiatives from the most powerful khanates to do this by force were destined to fail due to the fragile balance of power. This situation maintained a certain level of instability and benefited the neighbouring powers, who wanted to conquer the region.

11.1. The emergence of khanates on...

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