Qara Qoyunlu

gigatos | May 30, 2022


Karakojunlu (Turkish Karakoyunlu) was an Oghuz Turkic tribal confederation in the Caucasus region at the very end of the Middle Ages. It was also known as Barani and Baranlu. It included the territories of modern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Eastern Turkey and Iraq. Its leaders followed the Shi”ite strand of Islam. While the states of Karakojunlu and Akkojunlu occupy a prominent place in the history of the formation of the Azerbaijani people, they also occupy an important place in the history of Azerbaijani statehood.

The Karakojunlu tribal confederation was formed from the Turkoman (Oguz tribes) nomadic tribes around Herat in eastern Persia, which were vassals of the Jalayirids of Baghdad and Thebes. Their earliest known grazing lands were around the modern Turkish city of Erciş, north of Lake Van. In 1375, the leading tribe of the confederation around Mosul rebelled against the Jalayirids. With the revolt, the Oghuz became independent of the dynasty and Kara Yusuf conquered Tebriz.

The origin of the tribal name (“Black Hollow”) is disputed. It could have been a totem animal, but it is also possible that black sheep were the majority of their livestock. However, it is most likely that the Black Uryu was originally located further north than the White Uryu, since in Eurasian history the tribal names ”black” and ”white” usually mean ”south” and ”north”. The federation was led by elders of the Jiva, Jazöger and Afsar tribes, with the ruling clan of the Jiva tribe leading the state. Its name is Bahárlu, a variant of which may be Baránlu or Baráni. It included Bajram Hoxha (d. 1380) and his three brothers. Most probably descendants of the influential Turkoman families of Hamadan before the Tartar invasion. In the western part of the hostel area, they were associated with the ”White Ürü” confederation (Diyarbakır region), which, however, was not organised as a unit until much later under the name Akkojunlu.

“The Karakojunlu are the driving force behind the political migration movement from Anatolia to Iran and the first member of the new settler movement that is ensuring the restoration of Turkmen rule in Iran and even the perpetuation of Azerbaijan.    As can be understood from these words, the Turkic they spoke was the Oguz or Turkmen language, now called Azerbaijani.    Obviously, Jahanshah, one of the rulers of Karakojunlu, was a representative of Azerbaijani literature.

During Mongol rule, the Karakojunlu tribe lived in the Mosul region and grazed around Lake Van. In the first half of the 14th century, they became vassals of the Jalayirids of Baghdad, but in return they gained new pastures in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia in 1337. The alliance was headed by Pir Mehmed until 1350, when he was assassinated and taken over by Husayn ibn Bey Tadj Bugha, one of his emirs. He was in turn killed in 1351, probably on the orders of Bajram Hoxha. The leadership of the tribes was taken over by Ordu Buga, the nephew of Husayn Bég in Mosul. The tribes lived under Mongol law. When the Ilhans disappeared from the region in 1351, Bajram Hoxha brought more and more tribes into the Karakoyunlu alliance.

In May 1366 (after Ramadan), he launched a campaign against Taron and Muş, but was defeated by Sultan Uvajd Jalayirida. In 1371, Bajram rebelled again and besieged Mosul. In 1374 Uvays died and his son Hasan was murdered by his emirs. Bajram did not recognise the new ruler, Sultan Hasan ibn Uvais, and conquered several important areas in the region of present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan (such as Nahichevan and the area around Hoy).

At the death of Bajram, 1379

Start and Timurida interlude

Bajram Hoxha was succeeded by his son – some sources say nephew – Kara Mehmed, who won a decisive victory over the Jalayyirid warlords Shahzad Sheikh Ali and Pir Ali Bar Bégek in Nahichevan in 1382. This victory led to the downfall of Ahmad ibn Uvais, who, on hearing of it, caused a general revolt and was assassinated by his brother Hussain ibn Uvais. The new ruler became Uvaj ibn Ahmed, who later married a daughter of Kara Mehmed. The alliance of the Jalayirid Sultanate and Karakojunlu also defeated the Akkojunlu tribal alliance soon after. At this time Kara Mehmed was working to consolidate and expand his power. He defeated the Urfa and Jabar emirs. The emir Salim Bey Mosul fled to the Mamluk Empire, where he was surrounded by the siege of Mardin. As a result of this Middle Eastern adventure, the Mamluk sultan al-Malik az-Zahir Abu Saeed Barkú married Mehmed”s daughter, supporting his campaign against Akkojunlu.

Timur Lenk”s invasion in 1387 also changed the internal relations of Karakojunlu. As power weakened, some of the conquered territories saw the time as ripe for secession. After the capture of Tebriz in 1388, the commander of the garrison left in Mosul, the prince of Pir Hasan (son of the prince of Hussain, who had been assassinated by Bajram Hoxha in 1351 and cousin of the Mosul emir Ordu Bugha), rebelled. Pir Hasan proved to be an outstanding general, and until his death in 1389 he was a highly respected figure in the wars against Timur. After his death, Mehmed took power again in Mosul. Pir Hasan”s son Hussain Bey continued to fight Timur until at least 1400. Some tribes in the area did not recognise Pir Hasan and chose to be led by Kara Mehmed”s son Misr Hoxha. He proved to be a weak ruler, however, and his brother Kara Yusuf Emir was made ruler in his place in 1390. Kara Yusuf had often led the Karakoyunlu forces against Pir Hasan, but neither had been able to achieve decisive success against the other.

After the defeat of Karakoyunlu by Timur Lenk in 1400, Kara Yusuf sought refuge in Egypt in the Mamluk Empire, where he was replaced by his brother-in-law al-Malik an-Nasir Faraj, but the friendship remained. Here he reorganised his army and returned to Iran after the death of Timur Lenk in 1405. In 1406 he retook Tebriz. He was greatly helped by the rivalry between the Timurid grandsons that broke out in 1407. The decisive battle, however, was fought on 15 October 1406 at Nahichevan. The final victory came near Tebriz on 13 April 1408. In 1409, he defeated the Orthodox Mardin. Although Ahmad ibn Uvais was able to recover in Baghdad, Iraq and Khuzistan were lost to him.

In 1410, he also conquered Armenia. Armenian sources are extremely important in understanding the history of Karakojunlu. According to the sources, the rule of Karakojunlu brought a period of peace to Armenia, and although high taxes were levied, a large-scale reconstruction programme was initiated in the cities.

In 1411, encouraged by Sáhruh, the Ottoman emir Kara Jülük established the rival Akkojunlu tribal alliance around Amida and Urfa and, with the help of Sheikh Ibrahim Sirvánsah and the surrounding minor princes, rebelled against Karakojunlu. The Shirvan Shah was also an ally of King Constantine I of Georgia. However, the grand coalition was defeated on 6 December 1411 by the combined forces of Karakojunlu and Baghdad between the Kura and the Araks. Sheikh Ibrahim died of his wounds in the battle within hours. Kara fled to Ottoman Egypt. The Mamluk Empire then supported the Akkoyunlu, as the power of the Karakoyunlu seemed to be growing too strong (from an Egyptian perspective). This seemed to be confirmed by the failure of Shah-Ruh”s campaign against the Karakoyunlu in 1414. And in December 1418, Kara Yusuf was already conducting a campaign against Egypt.

In 1420, Sáhruh had gathered a huge army and could count the Mamlú Empire as an ally. However, Kara Yusuf died on 13 November 1420 and a power struggle broke out between his descendants, weakening the alliance. Nevertheless, the growing Timurid threat was successfully repelled for some time afterwards. After the initial turmoil, Kara Iskandar took the lead, but was defeated by the invaders in the spring of 1421, with Akkojunlu and the Timurids lined up. From 30 July to 1 August 1421, the three-day Battle of Alashgirdi took place, in which Kara Iskandar”s troops fought valiantly, but were outnumbered by the mighty forces of Shahruh, his war elephants and Akkojunlu, who fought alongside him. However, despite Karakojunlu”s huge loss of life, Sáhruh left the battlefield first, returning to Khorasan.

The internal war and the campaign of Shahrukh in 1420-1421 ended the period of peace in the Armenian territories, and Kara Iskandar wreaked havoc in Armenia. He drove masses of people into slavery and permanently expropriated their lands, triggering a wave of emigration. According to Armenian historians, only Jihan Shah stopped persecuting Armenians.

Jihan Shah launched a campaign against Akkojunlu in 1450, led by Muizz ad-Din Jihangir. He occupied parts of Armenia and besieged Jihangir in Amida. In the spring of 1452, Jihangir surrendered and recognised Karakoyunlu”s authority. This treaty, however, was not accepted by Jihangir”s brother Uzun Hasan (”Long Hasan”) and he began to organise resistance. In the same year, Jihan Shah also captured Diyarbakır, but offered it to the Sultan of Mamlūk Az-Zahir Nurmak, who in return appointed him governor of Diyarbakır. Jihangir attempted to regain power, but in the meantime Uzun Hasan was sided with most of the tribal alliance and was no longer considered ruler from 1453. Hassan was defeated by Jihan Shah in 1457.

In 1458, he launched an expedition against Jihan Shah Horasan. He arrived in Herat on 28 June, but in November he abandoned the campaign due to supply difficulties and signed a treaty of friendship with the Timurid ruler Abu Saeed (Abu ibn Muhammad ibn Saeed ibn Timur Miránsah). In the treaty, Abu Saeed recognised Karakojunlu”s conquests in Persia, and Jihan Shah marched unopposed into Herat. He then took the titles of Sultan, Khan and Grand Khan in addition to Emir.

He imprisoned his rebellious son, Hasan Ali, and in 1466 he put down the rebellion of his other son, Pir Budak, who had been rebelling since 1463.

In 1468, Uzun Hassan conquered Iraq, Azerbaijan and Iran. Hassan Ali and the blind Abu Yusuf held out for a while longer, but within a year they too were defeated by Uzun Hassan. This time Hassan Ali appealed in vain to the Timurid Empire for help, as it was in a difficult situation itself. The Timurid help that finally arrived brought misfortune to the motherland, as the Timurid Sultan Abu Saeed was captured and executed in 1469. In the same year, Hassan Ali committed suicide in Hamadan, and his blinded brother Abu Yusuf was unable to put up any serious resistance, despite being proclaimed sultan in Fars.


  1. Karakojunlu
  2. Qara Qoyunlu
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