Kara Koyunlu

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Kara Koyunlular

Black Sheep Turkomans
قره قویونلو
Qara Qoyunlu Turcomans 1407-1468.png
Kara Koyunlu of the Turkomans, lighter blue shows their greatest extent in Iraq and Arabian East Coast for a small period of time
Capital Tabriz
Common languages
Bayram Xoca
Hasan 'Ali
Historical era Middle Ages
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Jalayirids
Ag Qoyunlu Blank.png

The Kara Koyunlu or Qara Qoyunlu, also called the Black Sheep Turkomans (Persian : قره قویونلو), were a Muslim Oghuz Turkic monarchy that ruled over the territory comprising present-day Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, northwestern Iran, eastern Turkey, and northeastern Iraq from about 1374 to 1468. [2] [3]

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, unique and has guided humankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, viewed by Muslims as the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative example of Muhammad.

Oghuz Turks

The Oghuz, Oguz or Ghuzz Turks were a western Turkic people who spoke the Oghuz languages from the Common branch of Turkic language family. In the 8th century, they formed a tribal confederation conventionally named the Oghuz Yabgu State in central Asia. The name Oghuz is a Common Turkic word for "tribe". Byzantine sources call the Oghuz the Uzes. By the 10th century, Islamic sources were calling them Muslim Turkmens, as opposed to shamanist or Buddhist. By the 12th century this term had passed into Byzantine usage and the Oghuzes were overwhelmingly Muslim.



The Kara Koyunlu Turkomans at one point established their capital in Herat in modern-day Afghanistan. [4] They were vassals of the Jalairid Sultanate in Baghdad and Tabriz from about 1375, when the leader of their leading tribe ruled over Mosul. However, they rebelled against the Jalairids, and secured their independence from the dynasty with the conquest of Tabriz by Qara Yusuf. In 1400, Timur defeated the Kara Koyunlu, and Qara Yusuf fled to Egypt, seeking refuge with the Mamluk Sultanate. He gathered an army and by 1406 had taken back Tabriz.

Herat City in Afghanistan

Herāt is the third-largest city of Afghanistan. It has a population of about 436,300, and serves as the capital of Herat Province, situated in the fertile valley of the Hari River in the western part of the country. It is linked with Kandahar, Kabul, and Mazar-i-Sharif via Highway 1 or the ring road. It is further linked to the city of Mashhad in neighboring Iran through the border town of Islam Qala, and to Mary in Turkmenistan to the north through the border town of Torghundi.

Afghanistan A landlocked south-central Asian country

Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in South-Central Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and in the far northeast, China. Its territory covers 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi) and much of it is covered by the Hindu Kush mountain range, which experiences very cold winters. The north consists of fertile plains, while the south-west consists of deserts where temperatures can get very hot in summers. Kabul serves as the capital and its largest city.

Jalairid Sultanate former country

The Jalairids were a Mongol Jalayir dynasty which ruled over Iraq and western Persia after the breakup of the Mongol khanate of Persia in the 1330s. The Jalairid sultanate lasted about fifty years, until disrupted by Timur's conquests and the revolts of the Kara Koyunlu Turkmen. After Timur's death in 1405, there was a brief attempt to re-establish the sultanate in southern Iraq and Khuzistan. The Jalairids were finally eliminated by the Kara Koyunlu in 1432.

In 1410, the Kara Koyunlu captured Baghdad. The installation of a subsidiary Kara Koyunlu line there hastened the downfall of the Jalairids they had once served. Despite internal fighting among Qara Yusuf's descendants after his death in 1420, and the increasing threat of the Armenian separatists and Ajam, Kara Koyunlu later broke up due to series of different Armenian revolts.


According to R. Quiring-Zoche in the, Encyclopædia Iranica:

The argument that there was a clear-cut contrast between the Sunnism of the Āq Qoyunlū and the Shiʿism of the Qara Qoyunlū and the Ṣafawīya rests mainly on later Safavid sources and must be considered doubtful. [5]

C.E. Bosworth in, The New Islamic Dynasties, states:

As to the religious affiliations of the Qara Qoyunlu, although some of the later member of the family had Shi'i-type names and there were occasional Shi'i coin legends, there seems no strong evidence for definite Shi'i sympathies among many Turkmen elements of the time. [6]

Turkmens ethnic group

Turkmens are a nation and Turkic ethnic group native to Central Asia, primarily the Turkmen nation state of Turkmenistan. Smaller communities are also found in Iran, Afghanistan and North Caucasus. They speak the Turkmen language, which is classified as a part of the Eastern Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages. Examples of other Oghuz languages are Turkish, Azerbaijani, Qashqai, Gagauz, Khorasani, and Salar.

Jahān Shāh

Jahan Shah made peace with the Timurid Shahrukh Mirza; however, this soon fell apart. When Shahrukh Mirza died in 1447, the Kara Koyunlu Turkomans annexed portions of Iraq and the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula as well as Timurid-controlled western Iran. Though much territory was gained during his rule, Jahān Shāh's reign was troubled by his rebellious sons and the almost autonomous rulers of Baghdad, whom he expelled in 1464. In 1466, Jahan Shah attempted to take Diyarbakır from the Aq Qoyunlu ("White Sheep Turkomans"), however, this was a catastrophic failure resulting in Jahān Shāh's death and the collapse of the Kara Koyunlu Turkomans' control in the Middle East. By 1468, at their height under Uzun Hasan (1452–1478), Aq Qoyunlu defeated the Qara Qoyunlu and conquered Iraq, Azerbaijan, and western Iran. [7]

Muzaffar al-Din Jahan Shah ibn Yusuf was the leader of the Kara Koyunlu Oghuz Turks dynasty in Azerbaijan and Arran who reigned c. 1438 – 1467. During his reign he managed to expand the Kara Koyunlu’s territory to its largest extent, including Eastern Anatolia, most of present-day Iraq, central Iran, and even eventually Kerman. He also subjugated neighbouring states. He was one of the greatest rulers of the Kara Koyunlu. He was also allegedly fond of drinking and entertainment. During his reign Jahan Shah had the Gökmedrese and Muzafferiye theological schools constructed in his capital city Tabriz.

Arabian Peninsula peninsula of Western Asia situated in southern Arabia

The Arabian peninsula, simplified Arabia, is a peninsula of Western Asia situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian plate. From a geographical perspective, it is considered a subcontinent of Asia.

Diyarbakır Metropolitan municipality in Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey

Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey and is often considered the unofficial capital of Northern Kurdistan.. Situated on the banks of the Tigris River, it is the administrative capital of the Diyarbakır Province. It is the third-largest city in Turkey's Southeastern Anatolia Region, after Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep.

Kara Koyunlu rule


Armenia fell under the control of the Kara Koyunlu in 1410. The principal Armenian sources available in this period come from the historian Tovma Metsopetsi and several colophons to contemporary manuscripts. [8] According to Tovma, although the Kara Koyunlu levied heavy taxes against the Armenians, the early years of their rule were relatively peaceful and some reconstruction of towns took place. This peaceful period was, however, shattered with the rise of Qara Iskander, who reportedly made Armenia a "desert" and subjected it to "devastation and plunder, to slaughter, and captivity". [9] Iskander's wars with and eventual defeat by the Timurids invited further destruction in Armenia, as many Armenians were taken captive and sold into slavery and the land was subjected to outright pillaging, forcing many of them to leave the region. [10] Iskander did attempt to reconcile with the Armenians by appointing an Armenian from a noble family, Rustum, as one of his advisers.

Armenia Republic in South Caucasus in West Asia

Armenia, officially the Republic of Armenia, is a country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located in Western Asia on the Armenian Highlands, it is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the de facto independent Republic of Artsakh and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and Azerbaijan's exclave of Nakhchivan to the south.

Armenian language Indo-European language

The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken primarily by Armenians. It is the official language of Armenia. Historically being spoken throughout the Armenian Highlands, today, Armenian is widely spoken throughout the Armenian diaspora. Armenian is written in its own writing system, the Armenian alphabet, introduced in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots.

Thomas of Metsoph Armenian cleric and chronicler

Thomas of Metsoph (1378–1446) was an Armenian cleric and chronicler who left an account of Timur’s invasions of the Caucasus (1386–1403). What we know of Thovma's life comes from a biography written by his own student Kirakos Banaser as well as a number of 15th-century colophons.

When the Timurids launched their final incursion into the region, they convinced Jihanshah, Iskander's brother, to turn on his brother. Jihanshah pursued a policy of persecution against the Armenians in Syunik and colophons to Armenian manuscripts record the sacking of the Tatev monastery by his forces. [10] But he, too, sought a rapprochement with the Armenians, allotting land to feudal lords, rebuilding churches, and approving the relocation of the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church's Catholicos to Etchmiadzin Cathedral in 1441. For all this, Jihanshah continued to attack Armenian towns and take Armenian captives as the country saw further devastation in the final years of Jihanshah's failed struggles with the Aq Qoyunlu. [11]

Mausoleum of Turkmen emirs

One of the most prominent monuments built by the Kara Koyunlu dynasty remains today in the vicinity of the Armenian capital, the Mausoleum of Kara Koyunlu emirs. Turkmenistan and Armenia both contribute to the restoration and preservation of this medieval piece of architecture.

See also


  1. 1 2 Minorsky 1954, p. 283.
  2. Hovanissian 2004, p. 4.
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica. "Kara Koyunlu". Online Edition, 2007
  4. Patrick Clawson. Eternal Iran. Palgrave Macmillan. 2005 ISBN   1-4039-6276-6 p.23
  5. Quiring-Zoche 2009.
  6. Bosworth 1996, p. 274.
  7. Stearns, Peter N.; Leonard, William (2001). The Encyclopedia of World History. Houghton Muffin Books. p. 122. ISBN   0-395-65237-5.
  8. Kouymjian, Dickran (1997), "Armenia from the Fall of the Cilician Kingdom (1375) to the Forced Migration under Shah Abbas (1604)" in The Armenian People From Ancient to Modern Times, Volume II: Foreign Dominion to Statehood: The Fifteenth Century to the Twentieth Century, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian, New York: St. Martin's Press, p. 4. ISBN   1-4039-6422-X.
  9. Kouymjian. "Armenia", p. 4.
  10. 1 2 Kouymjian. "Armenia", p. 5.
  11. Kouymjian. "Armenia", pp. 6–7.

Works cited

Further reading

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