Qara Qoyunlu

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Dec 31, 2023

Table of Content


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 present-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Eastern Turkey and Iraq. Its leaders followed the Shi'ite strand of Islam.

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 Oguz 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. The victory led to the downfall of Ahmad ibn Uvais, who was assassinated by his brother Hussain ibn Uvais, who had a general revolt on hearing of it. The new ruler was 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 army 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 in 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.

The age of success and infighting

There is also renewed tension between Ahmad ibn Uvaiz and Kara Yusuf over Azerbaijan. At Asad, near Tebriz, on 30 August 1410, Ahmad suffered a decisive defeat which led many tribes to voluntarily join the Karakojunlu alliance. Ahmad adopted Yusuf's son, Pir Budak, and the jselairid throne of Baghdad passed by right of succession to Karakojunlu.

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.

Iskandar then turned against Azerbaijan, which was under the rule of Shahruh. There were no major clashes between Shahrukh and Iskandar until 1429, when the Battle of Salaam on 17-18 September 1429 again saw Shahrukh's numerical superiority prevail. Iskandar finally left the battlefield with a skilful manoeuvre. In Azerbaijan, his brother Abu Saeed rebelled against him, followed by his other brother, Shah Mehmed, the governor of Baghdad. Abu Saeed was defeated by Issaqandar in 1432 and Mehmed in 1433. However, a third brother, Isfahan, took power in Baghdad and swore an oath of allegiance to Shah. In 1433, the emir of the Lake Van area, his fourth brother Jihan Shah, also seceded and submitted to the power of Shahruh.

Because of the discord within Karakojunlu, Shahruh launched an expedition against Azerbaijan in 1434. He declared that Jihan recognised Shah as the legitimate ruler of Karakojunlu. In August or September 1435, Iskandar defeated the Akkoyunlu in a skirmish, in which Kara Yuluk Osman was killed, and his head was sent to the Mamluk Sultan of Baybarz. Iskandar then entrenched himself in the Ottoman territories of Kara from Shahruh and Jihan Shah, but was defeated near Tebriz in 1438. He fled to the castle of Alindzak in Azerbaijan, which was considered impregnable. Jihan Shah began a siege just as Baybarz's relief army was on its way. However, Baybarz died on 7 June 1438 and the Egyptian army turned back. Shortly afterwards, Iskandar killed one of his sons, Shah Kubad, and Jihan Shah captured Alinjak. From then on, Karakojunlu became sole ruler.

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.

Age of light and fall

Jihan Shah remained on peaceful terms with the Timurid Shahrukh, but this empire soon fell apart. Sáhruh died in 1447, at which time the Karakojunlu alliance extended its power to a number of areas previously controlled by the Timurids, including Iraq, the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and western Iran.

It was under Jihan Shah that the Karakojunlu state reached its greatest expansion and power. In 1445, Isfahan, the son of Kara Yusuf, brother of the last Jelaeid sultan's adopted son, Pir Budak, died and inherited the throne of Baghdad from him. In 1446, Isfahan's son Fulad was ousted by Karakoyunlu, who also conquered Baghdad, but it was Shah Ruh, son of Shah Mehmed, who eventually took power. Shah Ruh became independent in 1447 and over the next five years gained control of several important provinces, including Isfahan, Fars and Kerman.

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 1467, having secured the hinterland, Jihan attempted to take control of the Akkojunlu ("White Hollow") alliance, but a disastrous defeat led to the collapse of Karakojunlu's power. Jihan Shah was also killed in the battle, bringing Karakojunlu's power from its zenith to its immediate disintegration. Indeed, the fact that Hassan Ali, taking advantage of his absence, rebelled again, but the divided country was no longer strong enough, played a major role in his defeat. His third son, Abu Yusuf, was blinded, his fourth son Mehmedi died, and soon afterwards Farruhzad and Abu al-Kasim. Hassan Ali was proclaimed sultan.

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 difficulty 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.

The leaders of the Karakojunlu tribes also played a role in the rest of Asian history, with Bajram Khan, the leader of the Baharlu tribe, becoming an influential member of the Mughal Empire government and a warlord a few decades later.


  1. Qara Qoyunlu
  2. Karakojunlu
  3. Gerhard Doerfer, Turks in Iran, p. 248.
  4. M.Behrâmnejâd, "Karakoyunlus, Akkoyunlus: Turkmen Dynasties in Iran and Anatolia", p.  14
  5. Faruk Sumer, "Karakoyunlular", I volume, p.  VIII
  6. a b H.R. Roemer: The Türkmen Dynasties. W: William Bayne Fisher (ed.): The Cambridge History of Iran. Volume VI. Timurid and Safavid Periods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, s. 151. ISBN 0-521-20094-6.
  7. Jerzy Hauziński: Irańskie intermezzo. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek, 2008, s. 274. ISBN 83-7441-970-3.
  8. a b c F. Sümer: Karā-Koyunlu. W: E. Van Donzel, B. Lewis, Ch. Pellat: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. Volume IV. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1997, s. 584. ISBN 90-04-05745-5.
  9. Roemer, s. 153
  10. Кембриджская история Ирана (The Cambridge History of Iran), том VI, стр. 154: Оригинальный текст (англ.) It was in these circumstances that the two confederations evolved, and under these conditions that they prospered, so that during the second half of the 8th/14th century they were both able to found dynasties, that of the Aq Quyunlu in Diyarbakr, with its centre at Amid, that is in the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates with Urfa and Mardin in the south and Baiburt in the north; that of the Qara Quyunlu immediately to the east, with a centre at Arjlsh on the north-east shore of Lake Van, and spreading north to Erzerum and south to Mosul. The territories of both confederations were then occupied, as they had long been already, by a predominantly sedentary population, consisting of Armenians, Kurds, Aramaeans and Arabs, but at first including no Persian elements.
  11. 1 2 3 Рыжов К. В. Кара-Коюнлу // Все монархи мира. Мусульманский Восток. VII—XV вв. — М. : Вече, 2004. — 544 с. : ил. — (Энциклопедии). — 3000 экз. — ISBN 5-9533-0384-X.
  12. Шнирельман В. А. Войны памяти: мифы, идентичность и политика в Закавказье / Рецензент: Л. Б. Алаев. — М.: Академкнига, 2003. — С. 199. — 592 с. — 2000 экз. — ISBN 5-94628-118-6.Оригинальный текст (рус.) В 1386—1405 гг. Закавказье подверглось разрушительным набегам полчищ Тимура, после чего Северный Иран и Армения попали в руки туркменских династий Кара-коюнлу в первой половине XV в. и Ак-коюнлу во второй половине XV в.
  13. Всемирная история. Т.7, Т.10, Т.11.: Минск, 1996
  14. ^ "It is somewhat astonishing that a sturdy Turkman like Jihan-shah should have been so restricted in his ways of expression. Altogether the language of the poems belongs to the group of the southern Turkman dialects which go by the name of 'Azarbayjan Turkish'."[5]

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