One of the most significant and fascinating pages of the Azerbaijani history is the existence of the long-lasting Shirvanshahs dynasty. The Shirvanshahs state was established by Haysam Ibn Khalid in 861. The Darbandid was one of the three branches of Shirvanshahs. Its first representative was Ibrahim I Darbandid. He had great policy and wide ability of powerful ruler. He had great role in the history of Shirvanshahs and the Caucasus. Ibrahim I had courage and power for keeping internal or external independence of the Shirvanshahs. Interestingly, he was elected as a shah in 1382, which is rare case for medieval period. Who was this wise ruler?
Rise of the population dissatisfied with the rule Shirvanshah Husheng ends with his murder in 1382. Then the Shirvan feudal lords elected his cousin Ibrahim ibn Sultan Muhammad ibn Keyqubad, born in 1352, as shah. He was 34th ruler of the Shirvanshahs. Sheikh Ibrahim was the first representative of the Darbandid dynasty, a branch of the Mazyadid dynasty. According to Ahmad Gaffari, Sheikh Ibrahim’s father died in Shaki and Sheikh Ibrahim hid there until Hushang’s death and the Shirvan feudal lords invited him to take the throne of the Shirvanshahs.[i]
Sheikh Ibrahim was a wise ruler with the intelligence of a statesman. He used his great management skills and staid the position of the Shirvanshahs in the safety. During his reign Shirvan was under the danger of Tokhtamish and Timur (Tamerlane). He knew that he couldn’t fight both of them. So, he decided use one of them against the other. He chose the most powerful of them, the Timurids, as an ally. The written sources give information about the behavior of Ibrahim, who came to meet Emir Timur when he passing through Derbend and entered the territory of Karabakh and went to Dasht-i Kipchak in 1386. He ordered a sermon to be read in Timur’s name and minted coin with Timur’s name, and he went to the invader’s headquarters with the expensive gifts to show his obedience. As the custom, which was among the Mongol rulers, he presented nine of each gift. But he gave only eight slaves and said that I was the ninth.”[ii] Timur liked this very much; he called Ibrahim as son and gave him an honorary dress, appointed the rulers of Shirvan and Shamakhi and allowed him to return to his lands.[iii] This was created very favorable condition to Ibrahim I for strengthening of state. The Shirvanshahs, who controlled the Derbend Pass, a very important strategic point, were an indispensable ally for Timur. Shirvan was especially important in his war in the west, especially against the Ottomans and Yildirim Beyazid. So, they used their consolidated power against the enemy. Ibrahim also used the enmity between Timur and Tokhtamish of Golden Horde to save Shirvan from enemy attacks. Shirvan could keep internal independence. When Tokhtamish re-entered Shirvan in 1387 and reached the Kura River, Timur sent troops under the command of his emirs to help the Shirvanshahs. Timur’s son Miranshah, with The Shirvanshah’s troops, defeated Tokhtamish and forced him to flee. Timur repeatedly passed through Azerbaijan to Georgia and the north and in these marches he was accompanied by Sheikh Ibrahim’s troops. Timur was interested in seeing his ally in the person of Sheikh Ibrahim, whose lands bordered on the territory of the Golden Horde. Timur had conflict with the ruler Shaki province Seyid Ali Orlat, who died at the battle near the Alinja fortress 1399. As a mediator, Sheikh Ibrahim, succeeded to achieve pardoning Seyid (Sidi) Ahmed Orlat, the new governor of Shaki, by Timur and even restoring his right to inherit. Emir Timur had a great sympathy to Ibrahim I, in accordance with his special order (qizil yasah) he obliged his sons to protect the Shirvanshah and power of heirs. It is interesting that although Timur did not used the word of “son” in his own family, he called Ibrahim I as his son.[iv] However, there is no information in the sources about Ibrahim’s tribute to Timur’s treasury like other vassals. Probably, he was exempted from paying tribute and gave only valuable gifts. He was the key of northern borders for Emir Timur.
The friendship between Ibrahim and Timur’s grandson Mirza Omar turned into enmity. After the death of Timur, Sheikh Ibrahim entered Tabriz in May 1406. Thus, for a short time, he united the whole of Azerbaijan under his rule. When Sultan Ahmad Jalairid alongside with Qara Yusif Qaraqoyunlu approached Tabriz, Shirvanshah Ibrahim I left the city. Later on, when Qaraqoyunlu (Baharly) power emerged in the territory of Azerbaijan, Ibrahim had chosen Sultan Ahmad as ally. Latter was defeated by Qara Yusif in 1410 in the battle of Shanbi-Qazan, where Shirvanshah Ibrahim’s son was captured by Qara Yusif.
Sheikh Ibrahim and his allies, the Georgian rulers, and Sidi Ahmad of Shaki, faced Qara Yusif on the banks of the Kura in 1412. The outnumbered forces of Qara Yusif defeated Shirvanshah Ibrahim and his allies and Ibrahim I was captured. Qara Yusif destroyed Shamakhi and villages of Shirvan and returned to Tabriz. He drove one million cattle out of the country. Most of them perished from the cold on the road.[v] Released for a large sum of ransom- 1200 tumans, gathered by the Tabriz dwellers, Ibrahim I continued to rule of Shirvan as a vassal of the Baharly dynasty in the spring of 1413. [vi]
Returning to Shirvan from captivity, Sheikh Ibrahim ruled for four years and died in 1417. During his reign of Shirvanshah Ibrahim I, castles, mosques, caravansarays and ovdans were built in the cities and villages of Shirvan. Probably, the construction of the Palace of the Shirvanshahs in Baku began also this time. Well-known poets and scholars lived in the palace of Shirvanshah.
After death of Ibrahim I at the beginning of the 15th century, independence and development of the Shirvanshahs lasted more than 100 years.
The Shirvanshahs, Ibrahim I Darbandid, The Timurids, Karakoyunlu (Baharly)
[i] Sara Aşurbəyli. Şirvanşahlar dövləti. Bakı. 2006, s.115
[ii] Şərəf əd-Din Əli Yəzdi. Zəfər-namə, c. I, Tehran.1958, s. 299-300
[iii] Sara Aşurbəyli. Şirvanşahlar dövləti. Bakı. 2006, s.115
[iv] Mehman Abdullayev “history of Azerbaijan” BSU press, Baku, 2017, p.110
[v] Мирхонд, Раудат ас-Сафа, т. VI. Тегран.1960, c.265
[vi] Mehman Abdullayev “history of Azerbaijan” BSU press, Baku, 2017, p.114