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Azerbaijan: The Introduction of Islam and the Turkish Language
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Background > Early History > The Introduction of Islam and the Turkish Language


Between the first and third centuries A.D., the Romans conquered the Scythians and Seleucids, who were among the successor groups to the fragmented empire of Alexander. The Romans annexed the region of present-day Azerbaijan and called the area Albania. As Roman control weakened, the Sasanid Dynasty reestablished Persian control. Between the seventh and eleventh centuries, Arabs controlled Azerbaijan, bringing with them the precepts of Islam. In the mid-eleventh century, Turkic-speaking groups, including the Oghuz tribes and their Seljuk Turkish dynasty, ended Arab control by invading Azerbaijan from Central Asia and asserting political domination. The Seljuks brought with them the Turkish language and Turkish customs. By the thirteenth century, the basic characteristics of the Azerbaijani nation had been established. Several masterpieces of Azerbaijani architecture and literature were created during the cultural golden age that spanned the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries. Among the most notable cultural monuments of this period are the writings of Nezami Ganjavi and the mausoleum of Momine-Khatun in Nakhichevan.

Under the leadership of Hulegu Khan, Mongols invaded Azerbaijan in the early thirteenth century; Hulegu ruled Azerbaijan and Persia from his capital in the Persian city of Tabriz. At the end of the fourteenth century, another Mongol, Timur (also known as Tamarlane), invaded Azerbaijan, at about the same time that Azerbaijani rule was reviving under the Shirvan Dynasty. Shirvan shah Ibrahim I ibn Sultan Muhammad briefly accepted Timur as his overlord. (In earlier times, the Shirvan shahs had accepted the suzerainty of Seljuk overlords.) Another extant architectural treasure, the Shirvan shahs' palace in Baku, dates from this period. In the sixteenth century, the Azerbaijani Safavid Dynasty took power in Persia. This dynasty fought off efforts by the Ottoman Turks during the eighteenth century to establish control over Azerbaijan; the Safavids could not, however, halt Russian advances into the region.

Data as of March 1994

Last Updated: March 1994

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Azerbaijan was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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