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CENTRAL ASIA AND IRAN IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE 15TH CENTURY During Mughal Emperor Akbar III 1948-2012

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1994
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YURI BREGEL
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Geography
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Akbar III 1948-2012
Stacked Wooden Logs

Description

The first half of the 15th century was the last time when the principal sedentary regions of Central Asia were united with Iran as one state, the center of which was in Khorasan. Since the final split of the Timurid empire in 1469 (see map 22) these two regions have never again been reunited politically.
After the death of Timur, Western Iran, together with Iraq and Azerbaijan, was dominated by Turkmen tribal confederations, at first the Qara-Qoyunlu and then the Aq-Qoyunlu. Timur and later his son Shahrukh repeatedly fought these confederations, defeated them several times and pushed them back, but were unable to destroy or subjugate them. With the split of the Timurid empire, the Aq-Qoyunlu emerged as an equal political force centered in Azerbaijan, with its capital in Tabriz. At the same time Shi#ism gained strength in the western provinces of the former empire of Timur.
In 1501 Isma#il Safavi, the leader of another Turkmen group and the grand master of a Shi#ite Sufi order of Ardebil, in Azerbaijan, defeated the Aq-Qoyunlu, ascended the throne in Tabriz, adopted the title shah and began his conquests, accompanied by the introduction of Shi#ism as the official state religion in all of Iran. The Turkmen followers of the Safavids wore red turbans with twelve gores, in honor of the twelve Shi#ite imams, and were therefore nicknamed Qïzïlbash, lit. “red head.” Shism was introduced by Shah Isma#il by force, and many Islamic scholars and intellectuals in the former Timurid possessions who refused to convert were either executed or fled to the neighboring countries, especially to Mavarannahr. At the same time the latter was conquered by the Uzbeks of Shïbani Khan (see map 25), who portrayed himself as the defender of Sunni orthodoxy.
From this time, the political division between Mavarannahr and Khorasan became a religious and cultural division between Shi#ite Iran and Sunni Central Asia, which has remained down to the present time.

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