Safavid dynasty

gigatos | January 1, 2022


The Safavids (Pers. دودمان صفوی, Dudmân-i Safavi Azerbaijani صفویلر, Səfəvilər) are the Iranian Shah dynasty, the rulers of the Safavid state. They ruled from the beginning of the 14th century the Ardabil area in northern Iran, and in 1501-1722 and 1729-1736 the entire territory of Iran.

The first ruler of this dynasty was Ismail I (1501-1524), born in the city of Ardebil in Iranian Azerbaijan. Having secured the support of local Qizilbash Turkmens and other discontented tribes, Ismail after defeating Alvand-khan, the ruler of the Turkoman state Ak-Koyunlu, at Sharur (in Nakhichevan), victoriously entered Tabriz, where he proclaimed himself shah in July 1501. Initially the territory under his control was limited to Azerbaijan, but over the next 10 years he united most of Iran under his rule and also annexed the neighboring Iraqi provinces of Baghdad and Mosul to his state.

The created state was most often called Daulet-e Kyzylbash (Kyzylbash state). The names Kyzylbash kingdom and Kyzylbash dominion were also used, and the shah bore the title of the Kyzylbash padishah.

The capital of the Safavid state was the city of Tabriz; subsequently the capital was moved to Qazvin, and from there to Isfahan.

The Safavids called themselves by the Sassanid title “shahanshah” (king of kings). They brought to the fore, however, not the national principle, but Shi”ism, declaring it the state religion. It was during the Safavid era that Shiism established itself as the dominant current in Iran. It is worth noting that, both before and after the Safavids, in all the Muslim states that existed on the territory of Iran, the religious principle, rather than the national one, was always in the foreground.

The origins of the Safavids are not known. The first genealogy of the Safavids was written by Ibn Bazzazz in 1358 in the book “Safwat as-Safa”. According to it, the Safavid family descended from a Kurd named Firuz-Shah Zarin-Kolakh. The ancestor of the Safavid dynasty, Safi ad-Din, is referred to several times in this work as a Turkic saint (Pir-i Türk). Vasily Nikitin in his work denied the Turkification of Ardebil during the life of Sefi ad-Din. Hannah Sorvage disagrees with Nikitin regarding the timing of the Turkification of Ardebil, however, believes that in this context “Turk” has not ethnic, but, according to the accepted Persian imagery, a semantic coloring, being a synonym of “beauty”. Modern scholars tend to identify the basic language spoken by the first sheikhs as the Persian dialect of Gilan, in which Sefi ad-Din”s poems were written. It has been suggested that Sefi ad-Din may have written poems in Persian proper. Sefi al-Din also spoke a Turkic dialect of Azerbaijan.

“The Safwat as-Safa is a typical Sufi work, replete with legendary accounts of the miracles and life of Sheikh Sefi ad-Din Ardebili. It has been established by scholars that rare manuscripts have been subjected to such alterations and forgeries as happened with the Safwat as-Safa lists.

Later, during the reign of Ismail I, the “official” genealogy of the Safavids was enriched with additional legendary information, designed to prove the origin of the family from the seventh Shiite Imam Musa al-Qasim, and through him the ascent to the first Shiite Imam Ali. Petrushevsky believes that this version originated even earlier, in the 14th century. The Safavids, like the Great Moguls, claimed the status of heirs of the Timurid heritage, linking their origin also with Timur. This theory was invented in the later period, in particular under Shah Abbas, perhaps to compete with the Ottoman claims.

The hypothesis of Turkic origin

The German Orientalist Hans Romer believed that the Turkic origin of Ismail I was beyond doubt. Louis Lucien Bellant also believed that Shah Ismail I was a Turk from Ardabil. Mohammed Ismail (Christoph) Marcinkovsky, who examines the origin of the Safavids in a profile article, believes that the Safavids were probably of Turkic origin considered Ismail a Turkoman, not a Persian. Richard Fry, author of the article “The Population of Iran” in The Iranian, writes that the Safavid dynasty was founded by Azerbaijani Turks. Wheeler Thaxton also considers the Safavids to be Turks. The Iranian author Hafez Farmayan, writes about the Turkic origin of the Safavids, noting their significant role in the Turkization of northwestern Iran. Lars Johansson notes that the Safavids were a Turkic dynasty by language. According to the American Orientalist Bernard Lewis, the Safavids were of Turkic origin and were supported by the Turkic population of Anatolia.

Some scholars on medieval Iran have suggested that the Safavids were of Azerbaijani origin.

The hypothesis of Turkic origin was also widespread among Soviet scholars. One of the first to put it forward was Agafangel of Crimea. I. P. Petrushevsky wrote: “The first Safavid sheikhs lived in Ardebil, and their native language was Azerbaijani.

The hypothesis of Turkic origin was supported by many Turkish historians, contemporaries of Togan, who claimed the Kurdish origin of the Safavids.

The Azerbaijani scholar O. Efendiyev considers arguments about the Kurdish origin of the Safavids untenable, referring to the fact that in Ibn Bazzazz”s “Safwat as-Safu” Sheikh Safi was referred to as a “Turkic saint”.

The hypothesis of an Iranian origin

The British Orientalist Edmund Bosworth notes that although the Safavids spoke Turkic, they were most likely Kurds by origin. The Iranian historian Ahmad Kesrawi came to the conclusion that the Safavids were indigenous Iranians, but spoke the Azerbaijani Turkic language which was spoken by the then population of Azerbaijan. David Blow believes that the Safavids were of Kurdish origin, but by the time of Shah Ismail the Safavids were Turkoman, not only living with Turkomans, but also marrying princesses of Turkoman dynasties that preceded the Safavids. Turkish historian Zaki Walidi Togan states that the Safavids may have accompanied Kurdish prince Mamlan ibn-Vahsudan, of the Ravvadid family, on his conquest campaign to Ardabil in 1025. According to Togan, the Safavids later went to great lengths to conceal their Kurdish origin, to make their ancestor Firuz Shah a descendant of the Prophet, and Sheikh Sefi a Turkic Shiite sheikh, author of Turkic poems. Togan, despite this, considered Ismail I a Turk, based on the fact that Ismail spoke an Azerbaijani Turkic language.

The author of the article “Safavids” in the Encyclopedia of Islam, Roger Savory believes that today there is a consensus among scholars that the Safavids came from Iranian Kurdistan. In his opinion, the hypothesis of Turkic origin is based only on the fact that Ismail I spoke Azerbaijani and wrote poems in it under the pseudonym of Khatai.

The author of the article on the Safavids in the Encyclopedia Iranica, Rudy Mathy, considers the Safavids to be “Iranians with Kurdish ancestry. According to John Perry, the Safavid family probably had Kurdish ancestry.

Other hypotheses

Walter Hinz suggested that the Safavids were of Arab origin from Yemen.

Although the origin of the Safavids is uncertain, there is a consensus among historians that already in the 15th century members of the dynasty used the Azerbaijani Turkic language as their native language and this state of affairs continued at least until 1722, when the Safavid state was destroyed by the Afghan Khotaki dynasty.

Depending on their views on the origins of the dynasty, historians consider the early Safavids to have been Turkicized in the 14th and 15th centuries or to have been originally a Turkic clan. It is known that the Safavid ancestor Sheikh Safi Ardebil wrote poems in the Gilan dialect of Iran (other data indicate the Iranian language Adari), Farsi and possibly also in Turkic.

In his 1896 book The Early Years of Shāh Ismāiʻil, Founder of the Safavi Dynasty, the English Orientalist E. Denison Ross opined that Shāh Ismāil learned Farsi only as a teenager.

Some members of the dynasty wrote poems in Azerbaijani Turkic and in Farsi. In particular, the founder of the dynasty Ismail I, who wrote poetry under the pseudonym of Khatai, is considered a classic of Azerbaijani poetry, and Shah Abbas II also wrote Turkic poetry under the pseudonym of Tani.

In the beginning of the Safavids” rule in Iran, they relied on the Turkic tribes of the Qizilbash and established the Turkic language as the language of the court and the army, while Persian was the language of civil administration; the Persian was also the language of inscriptions on coins. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, with the transfer of the capital to Isfahan, the Iranian influence strengthened in the Safavid state, and the Persian language replaced the Turkic in the official spheres, but the Safavid court still spoke almost exclusively Azerbaijani. According to Roger Seyvory, the fact that the Safavids used Azerbaijani Turkic instead of Persian, like the Qizilbashi, was a rejection of the classical standards of earlier times.

Willem Flor and Hasan Javadi agree that the Turkic used at the Safavid court was exactly what is now called Azerbaijani, although even then it was called by different names – Kyzylbash Turkic (the name was used by the poet Sadigi Afshar and Abdol-Jamil Nasiri), Turk (the main name), turquesco (used by the Portuguese), etc.

Thus, according to Adam Olearius, who visited Persia during the reign of Shah Safi I, the Safavid court spoke Turkic, and Persian was very rarely heard, so most Persians learned Turkic in addition to their language. The fact that the language of the court was Turkic is also mentioned by other visitors to the Safavid court. Thus, in 1607 the Carmelites reported that “Turkic was commonly used by Shah Abbas, the nobles, and the soldiers.” Pietro della Valle wrote that the Kyzylbashi told him that “the Turkic language is manly and suitable for warriors, so the Shah and the emirs speak it.” At the time of Shah Abbas II, the Carmelites reported that “Turkic (Turkic) is the language of the court and is widely spoken in Isfahan and in the north of the country.” Jean Chardin wrote of the Qizilbash that “these people, as well as their language, are so common in the north of the country and in the court that all Iranians are called Qizilbash.” In 1660 Raphael du Mans wrote that “the daily language of Iran is Persian for the commoners and Turkic for the court.” According to Kempfer, who visited Iran in the 1670s, “Turkic is a common language at the Iranian court, and the mother tongue of the Safavids, in contrast to that of the commoners. The use of Turkic has spread from the court to the magnates and nobility and finally to those who wish to benefit from the Shah, so that today it is considered almost shameful for a respectable man not to know Turkic.” The French missionary Sanson, who lived in Iran between 1684 and 1695, wrote that Iranians regularly appealed to the spiritual power of the Shah with the expressions “qorban olim, din imanum padshah, bachunha dunim” (Azerb. qurban olum, din imanım padşah, başına dönüm). According to foreign visitors, spoken Turkic was widespread among all strata of the country”s population, as the lingua franca

Willem Floor and Hasan Javadi note that Azerbaijani was the language of the Safavid court until the fall of the dynasty and even Shah Hussein (this is good) for not being interested in politics and agreeing with any nobleman who offered him something, with such words.

Turkish historian Cihat Aydogmusoglu notes that the official correspondence of the Safavids with other governments was mainly in Farsi, but also in Turkic. Roger Seyvori also states that the correspondence during Shah Ismail”s time with Turkic rulers was conducted in Turkic. For example, the letter of Shah Ismail I to Musa-bek Turgutl from the beylik Karaman (from the Safavid chronicle “Nekâvetü”l Âsâr fi Zikri”l Ahyâr”), the letter of Shah Abbas II to the Shirvan Beglerbek (from the Safa-yı Nâsırî and Abbasnama from the Safavid chronicle “Ravzatü”s Safa-yı”) were written in Turkic language.

Willem Flor and Hasan Javadi point out that the correspondence of the “Qizilbash kings” with the Russian kings was conducted in Azerbaijani Turkic and Persian, so Russian sources reported that “the great envoys (of Russia) wished in conversations with their courtiers, Ilkhtam-Davlet and his colleagues, that the Shah”s reply was in Turkic, but in Tatar script”.

The Safavids patronized Turkic literature.

The ancestor and eponym of the Safavids is Sheikh Safi-Ad-Din Firuz Fath Ishak Ardabili (1252-1334). According to the genealogy reported by the fourteenth-century author Ibn Bazzaz Ardabili, he was a descendant in the seventh tribe of a certain Firuz Shah Zarini Qolakh, a Kurd from Sanjan who is believed to have moved to Ardebil around the eleventh century. Subsequently, in order to legitimize their spiritual authority, the Safavids declared themselves descendants of the Shiite Imam Musa al-Qasim, whose roots go back to the Prophet Muhammad and Ali ibn Abu Talib. The descendants of Firuz Shah were Sunni Muslims, although the Safavids converted to Shiism in the fifteenth century. Saf-ud-din was the favorite murid and son-in-law of Sheikh Zahid Gilani, the founder of the Sufi Zahidiyya order. Inheriting power over this order after the death of Zahid Gilani in 1301, he transformed this order into the Sephaviyya order. Twelve quatrains in the Iranian language Azeri, which seems to have been his mother tongue, have survived from him. These quatrains constitute the most important material for the study of the Azeri language, which remained largely unwritten. Under his son Sadr-ud-din Musa (d. 139192) the order developed into a broad religious movement that carried propaganda throughout the Middle East. At the same time it maintained its Sunni character. After his death, the order was led by his descendants: his son Ali (d. 1429), grandson Ibrahim (d. 1447), and great-grandson Junaid (d. 1459). The latter, having great power, under pressure from the ruler of Kara Koyunlu Jahanshah was forced to flee under the protection of the head of the Ak Koyunlu dynasty, Uzun-Hassan, marrying his sister Khadija Begum After the death of Juneid in a battle with Shirvanites, his son Sheikh Heydar (d. 1488) headed the order. The latter was married to Alemshah Begim (Christian name Martha), born from the marriage of Uzun Hasan and Theodora – daughter of the Emperor of Trebizond John IV Komnin. From this marriage was born the future Shah Ishmael.

After killing Heydar under unknown circumstances, his three sons – Sultan Ali, Ibrahim Mirza and Ismail were thrown into prison in Istahr. Soon, Sultan Ali was killed, and Ibrahim Mirza died in Gilan. Thus, Ismail was the last surviving member of the Safavid family. The Safavid family itself was part of the Ak Koyunlu tribal group. By that time, the Ardebil sheikhs had a large fighting force in the form of their Murids from various Turkic nomadic tribes, who wore red turbans and for that they were nicknamed “Kyzylbashi” (“red-headed”). In 1500. Ismail invaded Shirvan, and in the following 1501 he conquered Tabriz, where he took the title of shah, thus founding the Safavid state.

The first representative of the Safavid dynasty is known in history not only as a military leader and founder of the state, but also as a medieval Azerbaijani poet who wrote under the pseudonym of Khatai. A collection of his poems in Azerbaijani is published in the form of “Divan” by Khatai, and several of his poems in Farsi are also known.

In one of his verses Shah Ismail wrote: “Xətai da natiq oldu, Türkistanın piri oldu”, the semantic translation of which according to Vladimir Minorsky is “God came to speech in the person of Khatai, who became the mentor of the Turks (Azerbaijan)”.

Under Ismayil the governors of the state were appointed exclusively from the Kyzylbash Turks. The kyzylbashi, originally fanatically devoted to Ismail, were representatives of the Turkic tribes of Anatolia and Azerbaijan; with their assistance he and his successors could withstand, sometimes even victoriously, the incessant onslaughts of the Sunni Turks: from the east – the Sheibanids (Khiva and Bukhara), from the west – the Ottoman Turks.

By 1508, having become the ruler of all the lands of the Ak-koyunlu state of Uzun-Hasan (also Ismail”s maternal grandfather), Ismail became a neighbor of the former Beykara possessions occupied by the Sheibanids and went to war with them; in 1510 the Sheibanids were expelled from Khorasan to Transoxania. War broke out with the Ottoman Empire because the Ottoman sultan Selim I had 40 thousand Shiites executed who lived in subordinate Anatolia (1513). In 1514 Selim managed to defeat the Safavid army and to conquer Tabriz near the place Chaldiran. However, due to the extremely cold winter of 1514-1515 and the exhaustion of the Ottoman troops, Selim I. did not continue the invasion into Iran and left Azerbaijan, confining himself to the capture of Eastern Anatolia and Mesopotamia. After Selim”s death (1519), Ismail conquered Georgia, but the fanatical belief of the Qizilbash in Ismail”s invincibility strongly shook after the defeat of the Safavids in the above-mentioned Battle of Chaldiran.

Under Shah Tahmaspe I (1524-1576) the Ottoman Turks in 1534 conquered Eastern Anatolia to Lake Van and Iraq with Baghdad and the Shiite shrines of Nedjef and Kerbela, and in 1549 and 1554 made several devastating attacks on Azerbaijan (a grueling war with the Shaybanids on the eastern border. In 1555 a peace was signed with the Turks by which the Safavids recognized the Ottoman conquests.

Tahmasp”s children – Heydar (1576), Ismail II (from outside the country were attacked by the Sheibanids and Turks who took possession of Azerbaijan. In 1582, the Khorasan Qizilbashis proclaimed the younger son Mohammed, their Khorasan viceroy, the talented Abbas, as shah and delivered him to the throne four years later.

Abbas I the Great (1586-1628) once and for all eliminated the possibility of recurrence of the Kyzylbash feuds: a special “shah”s squad” (“shah-seven”) was formed, which included people from all the Kyzylbash tribes, and above it a permanent army (with firearms and artillery) was established. A significant number of representatives of the Kyzylbash nobility were executed and their possessions confiscated. The capital was transferred to the center of Iran – Isfahan in 1598. Abbas”s centralizing policy, based on the ancient traditions of Iranian statehood, allowed some Orientalists (W. Hinz, H. Remer) to conclude that the Safavids created a Persian national state in Iran (however, other authors consider this an exaggeration). Tahmasp I, in order to reduce the influence of the Qizilbash, created a new class of Ghouls and used them in the army and civil administration.

Although Shah Abbas put an end to infighting and weakened the Qizilbash nobility, the Qizilbash did not disappear from the scene and were not completely marginalized or destroyed, continuing to play an important role in the Safavid state with only the change that the administrative system became more complex with more rivals in the struggle for power, moreover continuing to be a major military and political force. Andrew Newman points out that the kyzylbashi continued to play an important role and to fight alongside the gulams as well as to occupy such important positions as ruler of provinces. Both the Kyzylbashi themselves and the Turkic (Azerbaijani) language have retained their importance as the language of the court, the army and the courts. For example, the fact that the Kyzylbashi retained power is confirmed by the struggle for the position of chief vizier in the middle of the 17th century.

The Sheibanids were defeated at Herat in 1598; to prevent their raids, strong border settlements of Kurds and Kajar Turks (kizilbashs) were established on the Atrek, at Merv. In one war against the Ottomans Azerbaijan, Shirvan and Georgia were recaptured by 1607, and in the next, in 1623, Baghdad with Nedjef and Kerbela; the Baghdad Sunnis were slaughtered. The desire to find allies against Turkey, as well as disputes with the Portuguese and British over the island of Hormus and the neighboring harbor at the Strait of Hormuz, Gamroun (from 1622 Bender-Abbas), were the cause of Persia”s diplomatic relations with Western Europe. Inside the state, Abbas tried to boost trade, built many roads (a highway for 400 versts across Mazanderan to Astrabad), bridges, caravanserais, and bazaars. The new capital, Isfahan, was decorated, Qazvin and the holy Mashhad were arranged. Although the Shah himself was not a strict Muslim (for example, he loved wine), but he was attentive to religious matters and finished the organization of the Shiite hierarchy, begun by Ismael I. In the family Abbas was a tyrant; out of suspicion he had his eldest son killed, had the other two blinded, and had his grandson heir weakened by opium and thus caused the degeneration of his offspring.

After Abbas

Sefi I (1628-1641), grandson of Shah Abbas, was a cruel tyrant who, upon ascending the throne, executed the best men of his state. The years of his reign were marked by great territorial losses, as the ruler of the Indian Mughal Empire, Shah Jahan, seized Kandahar from the Safavid state and the Turkish Sultan Murad IV seized Baghdad (1638). This battle for Baghdad was the last military battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid State and resulted in the Safavids losing control over all of Mesopotamia. After that, Shiites were not allowed to travel to Karbala in peace for about 200 years and access to Mecca was restricted.

Abbas II (he was preoccupied only with harem and wine, but state affairs were going well under good ministers; Kandahar was returned. The Safavid state was still prospering, as witnessed by the European travelers who visited Iran.

Under Abbas II the trade relations of the Safavids with the Russian kingdom significantly strengthened. Under Sefi I and Abbas II the role of European merchants in Safavid Iran increased. Sefi I concluded an agreement with the English East India Company, which undertook to pay the shah an annual “gift” of 1500 pounds sterling and to buy silk for 60 thousand pounds sterling annually. From 40-s of the XVII century the first place in trade with Persia was occupied by the rivals of the Englishmen, the Dutch, who also received the right of duty-free export of silk from the Safavid state. Under Abbas II, privileges were also given to French merchants, whose plants and factories appeared in Isfahan and Bender Abbas.

The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV sent an embassy to the court of Shah Safi II. The rich gifts brought by the embassy were calculated to change the mood of the Safavid court and they achieved their goal. Mehmed IV propitiated the Safavid Empire and ensured continued peaceful relations with the Safavids by paying them money and easing restrictions on the flow of pilgrims to Mecca. The Ottomans even appear to have pleaded with the Safavids for help against the Christian powers on the basis of common religion. Shah Safi II supposedly responded to this request by announcing that the Safavids had no intention of taking sides or intervening in the conflict. He responded in a similar way to the Ottoman petitions by referring to the long-lost Baghdad, declaring that

“…when Babylon is returned to him, he may agree to help the Porte, but that otherwise, when the war with the Christians is over, his aim will be to regain this fortress, which has belonged to his kingdom from antiquity.”

The last Safavid, Soltan Hussein (1694-1722), fell under the influence of the clergy. This did not please the army or the population, for the mullahs raised persecution against the Sufis, whose mystical aspirations were at odds with hierarchical Shi”ism. Sultan Hussein”s weak rule led to revolts and the Afghan conquest in 1722. Power in Iran fell into the hands of the Khotaki dynasty of Afghanistan. Mir Mahmud declared himself shah.

In 1722 the Safavid state actually fell under the blows of the Afghans, but over the following years many Safavids, as well as those who posed as representatives of this dynasty, tried to seize power. In 1729-1736 and 1750-1773 the power in Iran nominally belonged to the Safavids, but in fact Nadir-khan Afshar and Kerim-khan Zend ruled respectively.

The Safavids during Afghan rule

In February 1725, the Afghan ruler of Iran, Mir Mahmud Shah, hearing the news of the escape of Sultan Hussein”s second son, Sefi Mirza, became enraged and vowed to slaughter all the princes of the Safavid dynasty, leaving only Sultan Hussein alive. The princes, including the former Shah”s uncles and brothers, as well as his sons by various wives, were gathered bound in the palace courtyard and slaughtered by Mir Mahmud personally and his 2 assistants. Sultan Hussein, coming to the sound of the screams, managed to protect the two young princes, though he himself was wounded. The Afghan ruler spared the two young Safavid princes, but over a hundred died in the massacre.

Throughout Iran, many who claimed to be Safavids began to appear. The survivors, allegedly fleeing from besieged Isfahan in 1722 or from execution by Mir Mahmud, were gaining support against the de facto power. Hazin Lahiji counts 18 such claimants under Afghan rule alone, and a dozen more under Nadir Shah.

The first three claimants declared themselves Sefi Mirza, the second son of the deposed Sultan Hussein. The first of them in 1722 raised an army from among the Lurians of Kirmanshah and liberated Hamadan from the Ottomans. Five years later, however, he was assassinated by order of his former Lur allies. A second pretender, from the vicinity of Shustar, gained the support of the Bakhtiars of Khalilabad in late 1724 and had an army of 20,000 men between Shustar and Khurramabad. In 1727 Tahmasp II and Nadir Khan of Mashhad demanded that the Bakhtiar warlords kill the pretender, which they did in the fall. A third “Sefi Mirza,” whose real name was Mohammed Ali Rafsinjani, captured Shustar in August 1729, but the local ruler forced him to flee to the border, from where the Ottomans sent him to Istanbul with the idea that he might be useful in negotiating with those who would replace the Afghans on the throne of Iran. The Ottomans successfully used Rafsijani to foment unrest on the northern front when Nadir Shah was besieging Mosul. Neither of these pretenders was recognized as real. The real Sefi Mirza (b. 1699) was proclaimed heir to the state during the siege of Isfahan in 1722, but influential courtiers soon passed the title on to the weaker Tahmasp II. The latter fled to Qazvin in June 1722, and Sefi Mirza was most likely among those captured by the Afghans in October 1722 and executed in February 1725. It is possible that reports of the actions of one of the claimants spread the rumor that Sefi Mirza escaped captivity, prompting Mir Mahmud to commit the murder of all the captured Safavids except the deposed Shah himself and his 2 younger sons.

The only true Safavid who, along with Tahmasp II, could raise resistance was Mirza Seyyid Ahmed. He was also Tahmasp”s only rival, and for three years the biggest problem of the Afghan conquerors. Mirza Seyyid Ahmed was a descendant of the daughter of Shah Suleiman, the former wife of his grandfather, Mirza Daud Marashi. He fled from besieged Isfahan with Tahmasp, but decided that such a drunkard could not lead the resistance and fled to Fars, where he received the support of local emirs and their troops. In 1724-1725 Mirza Seyid Ahmed was besieged in the fortress of Jahrum. The siege ended when news came of Mir Mahmud”s assassination, and Seyyid headed for the Fas region, where his army grew to 6,000 men. He defeated the army sent against him by Tahmasp, then defeated the viceroy of Kirman and captured the city. In November 1726 he was crowned as Ahmed Shah Sefevi. During the march to Shiraz he was defeated by the Afghan army. With a small army he made his way to Kirman and learned that his former Kirman supporters had conspired to surrender him to the Afghans. Ahmed Shah, with a small number of supporters, dodging a battle with an army sent by Tahmasp, headed for Bandar Abbas, where he captured the Afghan viceroy and captured the city. He eventually found himself under siege at Hasanabad. His brother Mirza Abd al-Aimma was caught by the Afghans as he tried to escape through a tunnel, after which Ahmed Shah himself surrendered. Despite a promise of life, he and his brother were executed by the Afghan ruler Mir Ashraf in July-August 1728.

In addition, there were three other claimants who declared themselves to be Ismail Mirza, another younger brother of Tahmasp II. The most active of them, named Zeynal, seized several towns in Lahijane and, with his army of rabble armed with sticks and pipes, even forced to flee the viceroy who was trying to suppress the rebellion. The latter, however, eventually forced Zeynal to retreat to Mugan and Khalkhal, territory claimed by both the Ottomans and the Russians. With an army increased to 5,000 men, Ismail Mirza engaged the Ottomans. The Qizilbashis in the Ottoman army sided with the rebels, and the Ottomans were defeated. At Ardebil, Zeynal honored the mausoleum of Sefi-ad-Din, and soon increased his army to 12,000 men. With this army he drove the remnants of the Ottoman forces in Mugan toward Ganja, but was soon killed by his allies, probably at the instigation of the Russians.

Another pretender to the name of Ismail Mirza, possibly genuine, appeared around 1732 in Isfahan, soon after the liberation of the city from the Afghans. However, Ismail soon became the target of schemers who decided to kill Tahmasp and replace him with Ismail. As a result, Tahmasp had Ismail Mirza and his supporters executed.

Tahmasp Mirza, the third son of Sultan Hussein, fled from besieged Isfahan to Qazvin in June 1722 and proclaimed himself shah soon after the fall of Isfahan and the abdication of his father in November. However, already in December 1722, the Afghans captured Qazvin (although a month later the population revolted and expelled the Afghans), and Tahmasp II fled to Azerbaijan, which was soon captured by the Ottoman army. Tahmasp II then fled to Mazendaran and was supported by the powerful Qajar tribe who ruled the region from their capital Astrabad. Tahmasp was a rather weak ruler and was surrounded by third-rate advisors. In this situation, Russia and the Ottoman Empire seized a large part of the north and west of the country. In September 1723 the Treaty of St. Petersburg was signed between Russia and Tahmasp”s ambassador Ismail-bek. Peter I recognized Tahmaspah as the Shah of Iran and all lands occupied during the Caspian campaign, except for Derbend, Gilan, Mazendaran and Astrabad, although the Shah himself never ratified this contract and the Russians had no special power east of Resht, leaving the local Khans in power, and Ismail-bek, who signed the contract, fell into disgrace and died in exile. In June 1724 the Russians and the Ottomans signed another treaty to divide northwest Iran. The Ottoman and Russian empires in case of Tahmasp”s confirmation of the treaty recognized him irrevocably as the Shah of Iran. The Ottomans also promised to remain neutral if Russia sent troops to Tahmasp”s aid against the Afghans. However, after Peter”s death in February 1725 the Russian interest in Iran decreased and they left the captured lands.

On April 22, 1725, the cruel Shah Mir Mahmud was overthrown by his brother Mir Ashraf. A few days later he died – perhaps because of illness, or was simply strangled. On April 26, Mir Ashraf Hotaki proclaimed himself shah of Iran. Meanwhile, Tahmasp II wanted to move faster against the Afghans, but his militant Qajar supporters thought the Afghans were still too strong. Fath-Ali Khan Qajar, Tahmasp”s general, also saw a benefit to him and his supporters in conquering their citadel, Astrabad, nearby. He forced the Shah to launch a campaign against the rebel Malik Mahmud, the former Safavid viceroy who had seized power in Khorasan.

In early 1726 Tahmasp II sent an ambassador to Nadir Khan, a powerful warlord in Khorasan, to join the Shah and the Qajars. Nadir responded positively, persuading the shah to come to Khorasan sooner. The latter confirmed Nadir”s nominal title as viceroy of Abiward. In September 1726 Tahmasp and Fath-Ali Khan Qajar entered Khorasan and established Habushan as their base. On September 19 they were joined by Nadir with an impressive force of 2,000 cavalry and infantry, mostly Afshar and Kurdish, with artillery and camels with cannons.

The campaign to Khorasan and the annexation of Nadir was a mistake of Fath-Ali Qajar, as his relations with Tahmasp were not the best. At the initial stages he did not obey Tahmasp and used him only to legitimize power (most of the population of Iran remained loyal to the Safavids). And by the beginning of 1726, the Shah became in fact a prisoner of the Qajars.

Fath-Ali Khan began to realize that the young Shah and Nadir Khan had united against him, and even some of the Qajars thought of betraying him. He did not expect this – after all, the march to Khorasan was his idea. Trying to get out of his predicament, he decided to retreat to Astrabad and began treasonous negotiations with Malik Mahmud. On October 10, Nadir”s scouts intercepted the letter. The Shah became enraged and Fath-Ali Khan Qajar was arrested. Nadir Khan, fearing bad consequences, decided only to imprison Fath Ali in Qalat. However, the next day Fath-Ali was secretly beheaded by the Shah”s order while Nadir was busy with other matters.

Tahmasp appointed Nadir Khan gurchi bashi (supreme commander in chief) and named him Tahmaspkuli-khan (slave of Tahmasp). In November 1726 Mashhad was captured and Malik Mahmud was captured. At first he was pardoned, but was executed on March 10, 1727 along with his brother and nephew for sedition and abuse of pardon.

After the capture of Mashhad, the relationship between Tahmasp and Nadir deteriorated. The courtiers did their best to pit Tahmasp against Nadir. The Kurds, who remembered their bitter defeat at the hands of Nadir, also had a hand in this. Following the advice of his advisors, Tahmasp left Mashhad in February 1727 and settled in the Kurdish town of Habushan. From there he declared Nadir a traitor and sent letters to all sides asking for military assistance against him. His ministers persuaded the Kurds and others to rebel against Nadir, which many did. In response, Nadir confiscated the possessions of Tahmasp and his ministers in Mashhad and placed the city under the control of his brother Ibrahim Khan. Nadir then sent troops toward Habushan, engaging in battles with the Kurds along the way. He began a siege of Habushan and captured several Kurds of the Garachurlu tribe who were trying to leave the city. He threw them into a pit and threatened to burn them alive, but he let them go, only to frighten them. The defeated Tahmasp decided to start negotiations with Nadir. Nadir, however, told the envoy that he was concerned that the Shah might kill him. The ambassador protested that Tahmasp had sworn not to harm Nadir, to which the latter ironically replied that the shah had also sworn to protect Feth Ali Khan in the morning and had ordered him killed in the evening. Nevertheless, an agreement was made, and by March 21 Tahmasp had returned to Mashhad.

Then Nadir Khan subdued the Herat Afghans of Abdali, who besieged Mashhad several times. After the defeat of the Abdali in October 1727, disagreements between Nadir and Tahmasp began again. The latter began to attack Nadir”s allies and demanded disobedience to Nadir. He locked himself in the town of Sabzawar, but on October 23, Nadir forced him to surrender. Tahmasp was desperate, making an attempt to escape and commit suicide. He was disarmed and Nadir began to use his seal and give orders on behalf of the Shah. Tahmasp no longer tried to free himself from Nadir.

Over the next few months, Nadir defeated the Kurds, Yomud Turkmen, Abdali, and former Tahmasp ministers who had rebelled against Nadir. Nadir then finally subdued the Abdali Afghans in May 1729, and the ruler of Herat, Allah Yar Khan, was confirmed as viceroy of Tahmasp II in Herat. On September 29, 1729, Nadir defeated the Afghan army of Ashraf Shah at Mehmandust. Ashraf fled to Kandahar, and in December 1729 Isfahan came under the control of Tahmasp (in reality Nadir had the power), which ended Afghan rule in Iran.

In the spring and summer of 1730 Nadir conducted a successful campaign against the Ottomans, but was soon forced to leave for Khorasan, where the Afghans of Abdali rebelled again. Tahmasp II saw Nadir”s absence as his own chance to attack the Ottomans and conducted a disastrous campaign (January 1731-January 1732). The Ottomans repulsed an attack on Erivan in March 1731 and then one by one captured the cities of Kirmanshah (July 30), Hamadan (September 18), Urmia (November 15), and Tabriz (December 4, 1731). Tahmasp and the Ottoman commander Ahmed Pasha signed a peace treaty, according to which the Ottomans recognized Erivan, Ganja, Tiflis, Nakhchivan, Kartli, Kakheti and Shirvan and the Iranians recognized Hamadan, Tabriz, Kirmanshah, Luristan, Ardalan and lands inhabited by the Hawiza tribe.

Three weeks later, Tahmasp signed the Treaty of Resht with Russia, under which Russia agreed to leave most of the territories it had occupied in the 1720s.

The treaty between Ahmed Pasha and Shah Tahmasp was not to the liking of either the Iranians or the Ottomans. Throughout the state Tahmasp was criticized for defeating the Ottomans and prolonging their presence in Iran. Nader Khan, returning from Herat, used his personal prestige and popularity with the people as well as his military power to overthrow Tahmasp and send him to Khorasan for imprisonment on July 7.

The new shah was the eight-month-old son of Tahmaspasp, who was crowned on 7 September (possibly earlier) as Abbas III. Nadir Khan got rid of the name Tahmasp-kuli Khan and assumed the titles of wakil-al-dawl (representative of the state) and naib-al-saltan (viceroy). Abbas”s nominal power ended on March 8, 1736, when Nadir proclaimed himself shah. In late February 1740, Tahmasp II, Abbas III, and his brother Ismail were assassinated in Mashhad by Muhammad Hussein Khan Qajar on the orders of Nadir”s son Rizakuli to prevent a possible pro-Safavi coup amid news of Nadir”s death in India.

There were fewer pretenders to the Safavid throne during the Afsharid period than under Afghan rule, yet they were an indicator of the barely diminished prestige of the Safavids, having contributed to the provincial uprisings that foreshadowed the fall of Nadir Shah.

One of the claimants was someone who declared himself to be Sam Mirza, one of Sultan Hussein”s many sons, although it is doubtful that the latter had a son by that name. The pretender gained support in Ardabil in 1740, but his rebellion was quickly suppressed by Nadir”s nephew Ibrahim. On Ibrahim”s orders, Sam Mirza had his nose cut off and was then released. Three years later, heavy taxes led to a new revolt, and Sam Mirza emerged from his refuge in Dagestan to make another attempt. He was joined by Muhammad”s Kazikumukh troops. The rebels killed the viceroy of Shirvan, Heydar Khan, and captured Aghsa. The revolt spread to Guba, where the local Muganly units revolted and handed the town over to Sam Mirza and Muhammad. This dangerous development was brought to the attention of Nadir, who laid siege to Mosul in October 1743. Nadir sent a strong army against the rebels under the command of his son Nasrullah, son-in-law of Fatah Ali Khan, commander of the Azerbaijani troops and viceroys of Urmia and Ganja. The rebels were defeated near Shamakhi in December 1743. The wounded Mohammed fled to Dagestan and Mirza himself to Georgia.

About the same time, Nadir received news that Mohammed Ali Rafsijani, alias “Sefi Mirza,” who had taken refuge with the Turks after the failed coup at Shustar in 1729, was now heading across Erzerum and Kars to the Iranian border at the request of his masters. In early 1744, when Nadir”s peace negotiations with the Ottomans seemed fruitless, the pasha of Kars was instructed to provide further support for the pretender, and sent letters to the Iranian leaders and aristocrats of the border, urging them to rebel. That same spring Nadir set out from Hamadan to put down the rebellion, on the way receiving news that the Georgian monarchs Teimuraz and Irakli had captured Sam Mirza. By Nadir”s order, the already mutilated Sam Mirza was deprived of his eye and sent to the pasha of Kars with the letter “Once and Sefi Mirza is here, unknown brothers can look at each other”.

This mockery did not stop Sam Mirza, and shortly before the assassination of Nadir-shah he reappeared in Tabriz, where the discontented mob proclaimed him shah. Nadir”s successor, Ali Shah, sent an army against Sam Mirza, which defeated the rebels and finally killed Sam Mirza.

The hardly expected Safavid coup took place at the end of 1749, two years after the death of Nadir Shah, when a faction of Shahrukh Shah defeated the feuding Adil Shah and Ibrahim Shah.

Mir Sayyid Muhammad, as a mutawali in the Mashhad shrine and grandson of Suleiman Shah, was an influential figure in both Mashhad and Qom, making him a potential threat to Adil Shah, whom he helped to come to power. Adil took Sayyid with him in his campaign against Ibrahim. The latter, after his victory over Adil, appointed Mir Sa”id Muhammad to guard property and prisoners in Qom. However, Mir Sayyid opposed Ibrahim and expelled the Afsharid garrison from Qom; then he proclaimed his loyalty to Shahrukh and accepted an invitation to Mashhad with a promise to deliver the previous Afsharid property.

According to biographers, Mir Sayyid”s supporters had long resisted the insistence of his supporters to proclaim himself shah. However, it became clear in Mashhad that he had a large backing and Shahrukh would try to kill him. At the end of 1749, Mir Said”s supporters, led by Mir Alam Khan, revolted and marched him triumphantly from the shrine to the palace. Shahrukh was overthrown and imprisoned. In January 1750 Mir Said was solemnly crowned as Suleiman II.

However, Nadir Shah”s empire had already collapsed and it was out of the question for a new shah to come to the former capital Isfahan, which soon became the center of various puppets of Ali Mardan and Kerim Khan. To the east, Ahmad Shah Durrani seized Herat. Suleiman sent ambassadors to Kandahar with a letter that aimed to restore relations between the Safavid monarch and his Afghan vassal, and in which Ahmad Shah was referred to as Ahmad Khan Saduzai. The Shah of Durran was embittered and prepared for war.

Meanwhile, while Suleiman II was on the hunt, Alam Khan blindsided Shahrukh to prevent a possible pro-Afsharid coup, which led to disagreements between partners in the government. Afsharid supporters were unhappy with the expenditure of Nadir”s remaining treasures, the protection of religious property previously confiscated by Nadir for the benefit of the army, the refusal to fulfill their demands and extortion during the tax amnesty. A few weeks later they carried out an Afsharid counter-coup. Led by Yusuf Ali Khan Jalair, these conspirators were convinced by Shahrukh”s wife that he was not blinded. In February 1750 Suleiman II was overthrown and blinded. The rebels released Shahrukh from his imprisonment, but only became convinced that he was as blind as their recent victim.

The Safavids after the Afsharids

After the assassination of Nadir Shah in 1747, a power struggle between different factions began in Iran.

In 1752 a certain man declared himself to be Hussein Mirza, son of Tahmasp II. He, together with the historian Mirza Mahdi Astrabadi, had been sent by Nadir Shah as ambassador to Istanbul, but after the death of his master he decided to remain in Baghdad. The pretender”s biography was in the best tradition of his kind: he survived the massacre of the Safavid princes by Mir Mahmud while still an infant and was sent by his supporters to Russia via Georgia. He was brought up by the Russian empress, who told him his story, and after the prince came of age she allowed him to return to his homeland and regain the crown. It is not known whether they believed him, but Mustafa Khan Bigdili Shamlu and the Baghdad ruler Suleiman Pasha supported him, seeing in the self-proclaimed prince an opportunity to return to Iran by influential men. Ali Mardan-khan Bakhtiyari and his ally Ismail-khan Faili also had a chance to seize power in Iran, especially since their Zend adversary Kerim-khan lost his Safavid protégé Ismail III Qajaram.

The impostor prince was proclaimed Sultan Hussein II and, accompanied by an escort from Suleiman Pasha with reinforcements from the Lurian and Bakhtiyar tribes, began a campaign to Kermanshah, besieged by Kerim Khan. However, Sultan Hussein proved to be a weak-willed and foolish man. Moreover, it turned out that he was Armenian by mother and Azerbaijani by father. The disappointed army slowed its advance and the tribal militia returned to the mountains and in September 1752 Kerim khan Zend captured Kermanshah. Kerim-khan then defeated the army of Sultan Hussein II. Mustafa-khan Bigdili Shamlu was captured, and Ali Mardan-khan Bakhtiyari fled into the mountains with the impostor, after which he blinded him and sent him to the Shiite shrines of Iraq, where the impostor died in 17741775 as a religious hermit.

The French traveler Claude Charles Peyssonnel reported that in 17521753 the Georgian king Irakli II was going on a campaign to Iran to restore the power of Sultan Hussein. Perhaps it was about the above-mentioned impostor.

In 1776, another pretender appeared, a certain Hasan Sabzawari, who introduced himself as the son of Tahmasp II. By the time of his pilgrimage to Baghdad, the widow of Nadir Shah and sister of Tahmasp II had died. Hassan managed to convince the ruler of Baghdad, Suleiman Pasha, that he really was who he claimed to be, and despite the protests of the other Safavids, he received a huge inheritance.

After the death of Nadir Shah in 1747, a power vacuum was created in the central western provinces of Iran, which was soon filled by the Iranian tribal confederations of the Lurs, Laks, Kurds, and Bakhtiars. Led first by Ali Mardan-khan Bakhtiyari, then by Kerim-khan Zend, these Zagros tribes controlled Iraq of Ajem and Isfahan from 1750. They used the Safavid princes to legitimize their power. In Isfahan at this time there were 2 or 3 princes of this house-the sons of the former nobleman Mirza Murtada and the daughter of Sultan Hussein I. The youngest of them, Abu Turab, was crowned in 1750 as Ismail III.

The formal shah, like Sultan Hussein II, was not even treated with strained respect and ignored even the fact that he did not want to be shah. At first he was in the hands of Ali Mardan-khan Bakhtiyari, but was seized by Kerim-khan Zend. From the latter Ismail III was taken away by another participant in the struggle for power, Muhammad Hasan-khan Kajar, for several years. After Kerim-khan Zend established himself as the ruler of western Iran, Ismail III was imprisoned in the fortress of Abadan with provisions, daily allowance and a gift for every Novruz from his regent Kerim-khan signed “by your most humble servant”. Here Ismail III spent the last 8 years of his life, from 1765 to 1773, making knives and dying in middle age.

The kerim-khan had the title waqil al-dawla (commissioner of the state) and since 1765 waqil al-ra”ayah or waqil al-khala”ig (commissioner of the people). He suppressed referring to him as the Shah, stating that the Shah was in Abadan and he was only his servant.

In 1556 Shah Tahmasp I seized Kandahar, which, along with parts of Davar and Garmsir, was given to his nephew Sultan Hussein Mirza. After the latter”s death in 1575, his eldest son was murdered by order of Ismail II, and the rest were imprisoned. They were saved only by the death of the shah. The new Shah Mohammed Khudabende gave Kandahar to the second son of Sultan Hussein, Muzaffar Mirza. Davar up to the Helmand river was given to the third son of Sultan Hussein Rustam Mirza (1570-1642).

During the internecine strife in the Safavid state, Rustam Mirza opposed the ruler of Sistan, Malik Mahmud, but his brother Muzaffar, who had originally supported him, defected to Malik Mahmud. Rustam Mirza was defeated and in 1592, accompanied by his four sons and brother Sanjar Mirza fled to India. The Mughal padishah Akbar granted Rustam the title of Panjhazari and gave him Multan, which was more valuable than Kandahar. In 1594 Akbar wanted to give Rustam to Mirza Chitor, but then appointed him ruler of Pathan, where he was joined with Asaf Khan to defeat the local ruler Basu. However, Asaf Khan and Rustam did not get along and the latter was summoned by Akbar to court. In 1597, Rustam Mirza was appointed governor of Raisin, then served under Prince Daniyal in Deccan. In 1612, Jahangir appointed Rustam ruler of Thatha, but recalled him for oppressing the small Argun people. After Rustam”s daughter married Muhammad Parviz, a Mughal prince, Jahangir gave him the title of shashkhazari and appointed him ruler of Allahabad. In 1633, Rustam Mirza was appointed ruler of Bihar, but after 6 years was removed from his post by Shah Jahan as too old. Rustam Mirza wrote poetry under the pseudonym of Fidai.

His eldest son Murad received from Jahangir the title Iltifat Khan and was married to Abdulrahim Khan HananAbdulrahim Khan Hanan”s daughter; he died in 1671.

The third son of Rustam Mirza, Mirza Hasan Sefevi was ruler of Kach; died in 1650. Hassan”s son, Mirza Chafshikan, was commander of the Jessore garrison in Bengal; died in 1664. The latter”s son, Seyfeddin Sefevi, held the title of Khan under Aurangzeb.


  1. Сефевиды
  2. Safavid dynasty
Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.