Shirvanshahs Palace in Baku Old City «İcheri Sheher»
Complex of Shirvanshahs Palace was the last residence of the rulers of Shirvan State with the history of thousand years. At medieval times this state was the most powerful state in Azerbaijan. While in the south of Azerbaijan old and new feudal states replaced each other, in its north the borders of Shirvan state stretched up to Derbend, the south of Daghistan. In the hist orical literature the history of Shirvanshahs’ state is divided into four periods: the first Shirvanshahs, Mazyadids, Kesranids and Derbendis. In the historical literature there is little information about the first Shirvanshah dynasty. Mazyadids dynasty was founded by Heysam ibn Khalid in 861. Mazyadids dynasty of Arabic origin assimilated into local nobility and gradually turned into Kesranids dynasty being local for its traditions and way of life. Shirvanshahs Manichohr, Akhsitan, Fariburz were wise and well-educated rulers from Kesranids dynasty. The last ruler of this dynasty was Shirvanshah Hushenge ibn Kavus. As he had no heir to the thrown, after his death in 1382, feudal lords of Shirvan elected his distinct relative Sheikh Ibrahim as the new Shirvanshah. Sheikh Ibrahim was a poor, but well-known feudal lord from Sheki. As his ancestor had been the ruler of Derbend, Sheikh Ibrahim founded the new Shirvanshahs dynasty of Derbendi. Sheikh Ibrahim ruled in very uneasy period linked with the wars of Emir Timur in Near East. In this period Emir Timur and Tokhtamish khan of the Golden Horde fought for the seizure of Azerbaijan, which had advantageous geographical position and rich natural resources. Campaigns of Timur and Tokhtamish of the Golden Horde that fought against each other passed through Shirvan and inflicted serious damages and losses to the country. Being a wise ruler and smart diplomat, Shirvanshah Ibrahim I took the side of Timur, the most powerful ruler of that period. In 1386 EmirTimur started to plan a new campaign against Tokhtamish khan. He made a military camp in Barda. Shirvanshah Ibrahim I convened his divan. Members of the divan recommended him to launch a war against Emir Timur. However,Shirvanshah Ibrahim I refused and told that he wouldn’t make his soldiers target to the sharp swords and arrows of enemy and he didn’t want his people to be trampled under feet of horses of enemy. Shirvanshah Ibrahim I stated that he would go to the military camp of Emir Timur and suggest him to be his vassal. Emir Timur would either accept his offer or behead him. Shirvanshah Ibrahim I went to military camp of Timur with various expensive gifts and in every possible way expressed his humility. Although he took all gifts in 9 pieces, the number of slaves was eight. When Emir Timur asked the reason, Shirvanshah Ibrahim I told that he was the nineth slave. Emir Timur liked his grand gesture so much that he recognized the independence of Shirvan state and entrusted him the protection of the northern borders of the country. In 1405 after the death of Timur the empire created by him collapsed. Shirvanshah Ibrahim I making use of the situation achieved the independence of Shirvan state. Sheikh Ibrahim I, who tried to expand the territory of Shirvan state, could unite the other lands of Azerbaijan – Ganja, Karabakh. Thanks to his diplomatic skills and military talent, for thirty five years of reign Sheikh Ibrahim could not only manage to keep Shirvan independent and strengthen its power, but he could also expand the territory of the country.
The first capital of Shirvanshahs’ state was the city of Shamakhi. After the devastating earthquake that took place in Shamakhi in 1197, Shirvanshah moved the capital to Baku. However, long before the earthquake, during the reign of Shirvanshah Manuchohr III (1120-1160) the fortress walls of old Baku were built.
In the written sources there is little information about Shirvanshahs’ state with thousand year history. The rich archive and manuscripts of Shirvanshahs were plundered during the war with Safavids state taken place in 1500. One can obtain information about social-political and cultural life of Shirvanshahs’ state, its administrative structure, its tax policy and kinds of tax and about other important issues from epigraphic sources. According to these documents, in the Shirvanshahs’ state after the ruler the second position was the chief commander, the third was the position of sadr. Close relative of Shirvanshahs (brother or cousin) usually held the position of chief commander. During the reign of Shirvanshah Sheikh Ibrahim I, his brother Sheikh Bahlul was the chief commander of Shirvan state. Emir Tahmuras, the son of Sheikh Bahlul held the position of chief commander during the rule of Shirvanshah Khalilullah I, the son of Sheikh Ibrahim. As usual, the highest priests held the position of sadr. Sheikh-ul-Islams, imams, seyids, akhunds and other religious figures, scientists participated in state meetings and played the main role in making decisions on important state issues. The only manuscript of document written by Shirvanshah Farrukh Yasar, which has come down to our days, confirms this fact. In 1474 when Shirvanshah Farrukh Yasar appointed his son Shamkhal ruler in Mahmudabad, Qustasb region and Salyan, he told him not to make a decision without the participation of religious figures. He wrote that religious figures were the columns of the state and they could not keep peoples under obedience without the help of priests.
During the reign of Shirvanshah Manuchohr III (1120-1160) and his son Akhsitan I (1160-1197) Shirvan state flourished and strengthened, intensive renovation and construction works were carried out, cities and castles were built, military fortifications and public houses were restored.
In the XII century and the first half of the XIII century there happened economical, political and cultural development in Shirvan state. In this period Baku was the capital of Shirvanshahs’ state. Military-strategical significance of Baku and Absheron peninsular in the defence of the northern borders of Shirvan increased. Baku also developed as a port city. Sabail castle, fortress walls, Shirvanshahs’ Palace are clear proof of this development.
Shirvanshahs’ state lost its independence under Mongols. Numismatic materials related to the second half of the XIII century confirm this fact. Only the name of Munkakaan was minted on coins. During the reign of Sheikh Ibrahim I (1382-1417), Khalilullah I (1417-1462), Farrukh Yasar (1462-1500) military fortifications of Derbend, Akhti, Tsakhur were restored, Farrukhiyye medrese was built in Jame (mosque) komplex of Derbend. Shirvanshahs could keep independence till 1538. On coins minted during the reign of Sheikh Ibrahim II his name is used with the title “Sultan”. In 1538 Shirvanshahs’ state was united to Safavids state.
The Complex of Shirvanshahs’ Palace was erected on one of the highest points of Icherisheher, in a densely populated area. The construction work was not confined to the single architectural plan. However, taking into consideration the purpose of each building of the Complex, the masters could place them in order of importance and could create a beautiful scenery. If you look carefully, you can see that the buildings don’t contrast each other, on the contrary, they complete each other.The constructions of the Complex occupy 1 hectare area. Because of rough relief of its area, the territory of the Complex was divided into three courtyards with the level difference of 5-6meters. The constructions of the Complex are located in these three courtyards. Here you can observe the division of the area according to the functional purpose.