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The establishment of the Safavids Empire.

Domestic and foreign policy of Shah Ismail I

The name of Savafid dynasty derives from the name of its founder Sheikh Safi al-Din Ishaq. They constructed a dubious genealogy tracing the descent of the Safavid family from the seventh of the Twelver Imams, Musa al-Kazim and introduced into the text of a hagiological work on the life of Sheikh Safi al-Din. For the next century and a half, from 1301 to 1447, the Safavid sheikhs of Ardabil proceeded with great tenacity of purpose to extend their influence using Shia Islam. In the second half of the 15th century representatives of this dynasty Sheikh Junayd, Sheikh Haydar and Sultan Ali struggled for the political power, but they were unsuccessful. Haydar devised the distinctive red Safavid headgear, with twelve gores or folds commemorating the twelve Shi’a Imams. As a result, Safavid troops were dubbed Qizilbash. After killing of Sultan Ali, for the third time the Safavid movement had lost its leader, and its new leader, Ismail, was only seven years old. Ismail escaped to Gilan, finding sanctuary at Lahijan.

In 1499 he left Lahijan for Ardabil, then he led to Erzinjan. In the summer of 1500, 7,000 of his men assembled at Erzinjan. First Ismail decided to attack Shirvansah Farrukh Yasar, whom he defeated at the battle of Jabani in 1500. Then in 1501 he seized Baku. After settling an old score with the ruler of Shirvan, in the spring of 1501 Ismail routed an Ak-Koyunlu force of 3 0,000 men and vanished Akkoyunlu under leadership of Alwand Mirze at the battle of Sharur near Nakhchivan. This was the decisive battle of Safavids. In the summer of 1501 Ismail entered Tabriz, and proclaimed himself Shah Ismail I the first ruler of the new Safavid dynasty, as yet with authority over Azerbaijan only. Tabriz became a capital city for Safavids.

The main stages in the consolidation of empire were: the defeat of the remaining Ak-Koyunlu forces at the battle of Almaqulagy in 1503, which gave Isma'il control of central and southern Persia; the capture of Baghdad and the conquest of south-west Persia in 1508; and the conquest of Khurasan in 1510, when at the battle of Marv the Ozbegs of Central Asia under the leadership of Shaybani Khan were defeated. In eastern Anatolia, within the borders of the Ottoman Empire itself, were large numbers of Turcomans who were supporters of the Safavids. In 1512 Ismail captured Karahisar and Malatya in Anatolia. Ismail strengthened his diplomacy with western countries trying to get firearms, but he was not able. The Ottoman Sultan Selim I before he attacked Safavids, he put to death all the adherents of Shi'ism in Anatolia on whom he could lay hands. On 23 August 1514, the Ottoman and Safavid armies confronted each other at Chaldiran, in northwestern Azerbaijan. Safavid army was defeated. Reasons for defeat were: Safavids didn't have firearms; numerical superiority of Ottomans; over self-confidence of Ismail. The failure of the Safavids to equip themselves with artillery and handguns is one of the puzzling features of the period. Selim occupied Tabriz, but eight days later, because his officers refused to winter in Persia, he withdrew from the Safavid capital. In terms of territory, the Safavids escaped with the loss of the province of Diyar Bakr, and of the regions of Marash and Elbistan. Ismail died in 1524. During the last ten years of his life, he never again led his troops into battle.

The Ottoman-Safavid wars of the 16th century.

The peace of Amasia and the treaty of Istanbul

As we know, the Ottoman-Safavid wars started during the reign of Ismail I, who was defeated at the battle of Chalidran. Tahmasp I (1524-1576), who at the age of ten succeeded his father on the throne in 1524, did not at first have an opportunity to exercise any authority, because the Qizilbash military aristocracy assumed control of the state. He asserted himself as de facto shah after ten years of unchallenged Qizilbash supremacy. Using this window of opportunity, the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent mounted four full-scale invasions of Azerbaijan. In 1534, to meet the first of these attacks, delivered by 90,000 men under the grand vezir Ibrahim Pasha, Tahmasp could raise only 7,000 men, and the loyalty of many of these was suspect. Further Ottoman invasions followed in 1535, 1548, and 1554. The Ottomans entered Baghdad in 1534. Tabriz was occupied on several occasions, and, because of its vulnerability to Ottoman attack, Tahmasp transferred the capital to Qazvin.

The further the Ottomans advanced into Safavid territory, the more difficult their position became. The severe winters and mountainous terrain of Azerbaijan were allies of the Safavids. A big measure of credit must go to Tahmasp for his masterly use of Fabian tactics. The treachery of Tahmasp's two brothers, Sam Mirza, governor-general of Khurasan, who rebelled against the shah and intrigued with the Ottomans in 1534-6, and Alqas Mirza, governor of Shirvan, who rebelled and joined the third Ottoman invasion of Azerbaijan in 1548, was a source of great grief to Tahmasp. Tahmasp rendered a great service to the Safavid state by negotiating the peace of Amasia in 1555, which inaugurated a period of over thirty years of peace with the Ottomans. According to this treaty, Safavids ceded Armenia and Western Georgia to the Ottomans, and Safavids kept Chukhur-Saad and Eastern Georgia in their hands. 

After Tahmasp I death Safavid state was weakened by the dynastic clashes. Finally, Muhammad Khudabanda (1578-1587) was proclaimed ruler, who was a puppet for the Qizilbash aristocracy. The Ottoman Sultan Murad III chose this moment (1578) to break the long peace, and to launch a major invasion under Mustafa Pasha. The Crimean Tatars made common cause with the Ottomans; they four time attacked Shirvan in 1578, 1579, 1580, 1581, but Safavids defeated all of them. However, the Ottomans were more successful and they defeated Safavids at the battle of Childir in 1578. The same year Safavids could win at the battles near Mollahasanli and on bank of the Ganikh River. But later the Safavids suffered defeat after defeat. In 1583 at the battle of the Samur River (so-called the flare battle) and in 1585 at the battle of Sufian Ottomans vanished the Safavid army. In a dramatic turn of events, Muhammad Khudabanda was overthrown, and beyond his control, handed over the insignia of kingship to his son, who was crowned Shah Abbas I (1587-1629).

Abbas realized the impossibility of fighting, and he signed in 1590 a peace treaty, which ceded large areas of Safavid territory to the Ottomans. The regions of Azerbaijan, Qarabagh, Ganja, Qarajadagh, together with Georgia and parts of Luristan and Kurdistan, were to remain in Ottoman hands. Never before the Ottomans made such inroads into Safavid territory.