Safavid Karabakh

Province of Karabakh
Ostān-e Qarabagh
The administrative divisions of Safavid Iran in the South Caucasus
The administrative divisions of Safavid Iran in the South Caucasus
StatusProvince of Safavid Iran
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Aq Qoyunlu
Karabakh Khanate
Today part ofArmenia

The province of Karabakh (also spelled Qarabagh; Persian: ولایت قره باغ, romanizedOstān-e Qarabāgh) was a north-western province of the Safavid Iran, centered on the geographic region of Karabakh.

The governorship of Karabakh was generally held by a member of the Qajars, one of the Qizilbash tribes. It's highlands were controlled by the five Armenian melikdoms.


These provinces were headed by the shah's governors-general, who were called beglarbegs, or at other times hakems. The main urban center of the province of Karabakh was the city of Ganja.[1] The first Safavid governor of Karabakh (hakem) was Piri Beg Qajar, and was appointed as such in 1501.[1] Shahverdi-Sultan, from the Ziyadoglu clan of the Qajar tribe, was appointed by Shah Tahmasp I (r. 1524-1576) in 1554.[1]


Under the Safavids, Karabakh was part of the mamalek ("state lands"), a form of the iqta' that had been used by the Buyid dynasty (934–1062). It was a type of prebendalism in which lands were given away as fiefs to tribal military forces, thus demonstrating the Safavids' reliance on them to protect the country. Due to its more exposed position as a frontier province, Qarabagh continued to remain mamalek land to maintain more security, in contrast to some other provinces which were transformed into khassa ("crown lands").[2] The Qizilbash chieftains were rewarded with mamalek land in exchange for their military alertness and for paying limited defined sum every year.[3] The governorship of Karabakh was generally held by a member of the Qizilbash Qajar tribe.[4][5]

The plains of Karabakh were dominated by nomadic Turkic tribes, who moved to the hillsides in search of suitable pastures throughout the summer. The highlands of Karabakh were dominated by Armenian meliks (princes), who had established five melikdoms (Dizak, Gulistan, Jraberd, Khachen and Varanda) that ruled in Karabakh from the 16th-century to the 18th-century. These Armenian-ruled principalities, which upheld the notion of Armenian statehood, were used by the Safavids to fight the Ottoman Empire.[6]

Persian miniature depicting Shah Abbas the Great hunting in Karabakh. From an illustrated history created in 17th-century Safavid Iran

List of governors[edit]

This is a list of the known figures who governed Karabakh or parts of it.[4] Beglerbeg and hakem were administrative titles designating the governor.[7]

Date Governor Observations
1501–1512? Piri Beg Qajar Hakem of Karabakh
1526 Hoseyn Beg Ustajlu Hakem of Karabakh
1528 Ya'qub Soltan Qajar Hakem of Karabakh
1551–1556 Shahverdi Soltan Qajar Beglerbeg of Karabakh
1554–1564 Shahverdi Khan Soltan Ziyadoghlu Hakem of Karabakh
1564–1568–? Ebrahim Beg Ziyadoghlu Qajar Beglerbeg of Karabakh and Ganja
1575 Yusof Khalifeh Ziyadoghlu
1576 Paykar Khan Igirmi Durt Hakem of Ganja and amir al-omara of Karabakh
1576–1588 Emamqoli Beg Qajar Hakem of Karabakh and Ganja
1588–1590 Mohammad Khan Ziyadoghlu Qajar Beglerbeg of Karabakh
1589–1605 None Ottoman occupation
1605–1606 Hoseyn Khan Ziyadoghlu Qajar Beglerbeg of Karabakh
1606–1616 Mohammad Khan Ziyadoghlu Qajar Beglerbeg of Karabakh
1616–1627 Mohammad-Qoli Khan Qajar Beglerbeg of Karabakh
1627–1633 Daud Khan Undiladze Beglerbeg of Karabakh
1633–? Mohammad-Qoli Khan Qajar (2nd term) Beglerbeg of Karabakh
1651–1664 Mortezaqoli Khan Ziyadoghlu Beglerbeg of Karabakh
1664–? Oghurlu Khan Beglerbeg of Karabakh
1694 Abbas Qoli-Khan Beglerbeg of Karabakh and Hakem of Kakhetia
1695 Kalb Ali Khan Ziyadoghlu Beglerbeg of Karabakh and Hakem of Kakhetia
?–1723–? Constantine II of Kakheti Beglerbeg of Karabakh


  1. ^ a b c Floor 2008, p. 258.
  2. ^ Matthee 2011, pp. 141–142.
  3. ^ Matthee 2011, p. 142.
  4. ^ a b Floor 2008, pp. 258–259.
  5. ^ Floor 2021, p. 221.
  6. ^ Tsibenko 2018.
  7. ^ Floor 2008, p. 124.


  • Bournoutian, George (2021). From the Kur to the Aras: A Military History of Russia's Move into the South Caucasus and the First Russo-Iranian War, 1801–1813. Brill. ISBN 978-9004445154.
  • Floor, Willem (2008). Titles and Emoluments in Safavid Iran: A Third Manual of Safavid Administration, by Mirza Naqi Nasiri. Washington, D.C.: Mage Publishers. ISBN 978-1933823232.
  • Floor, Willem (2021). "The Safavid court and government". In Matthee, Rudi (ed.). The Safavid World. Routledge. pp. 203–224.
  • Matthee, Rudi (2011). Persia in Crisis: Safavid Decline and the Fall of Isfahan. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-0857731814.
  • Reid, James J. (1978). "The Qajar Uymaq in the Safavid Period, 1500-1722". Iranian Studies. Taylor & Francis. 11: 117–143. JSTOR 4310299. (registration required)
  • Tsibenko, Veronika (2018). "Karabakh, Nagorno". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (3rd ed.). Brill Online. ISSN 1873-9830.