Under the general editorship of Academican of the Azerbaijan Republic P.A.Azizbekova
The numismatic relics of Azerbaijan are concentrated, in the main, at the Museum of the History of Azerbaijan. Its numismatic fund encompasses the more than 2,000-ycar long period of Azerbaijan’s statehood and the entire history of coinage and money circulation on its territory.
This catalogue is the first attempt to inform those who are interested in numismatics about the most interesting, rare and often unique Azerbaijan coins from the Museum’s collection, which numbers upwards of 100,000 items.
Judging from the local finds, it was in the days of Alexander the Great that coins made their first appearance on the territory of Azerbaijan. These were silver coins — drachmas and tetradrachmas — of the great conqueror himself and, following his death and the division of the empire, similar silver coins of the Hellenistic states (Seleucia, Par-thia, Bactria, Pontus, etc.) and certain centres of the classic world (Athens, Rome, etc.).
Alongside the broad circulation of Hellenistic coins in ancient Azerbaijan — Atropathcneum and Caucasian Albania — the mintage of domestic means of circulation — silver coins imitating those of Alexander the Great and the kings of Seleucia and Parthia — was launched here since the 3rd century B. C. These coins marked the beginning of the state coinage of Azerbaijan, which by that time had built up a certain economic potential and maintained close ties with the Hellenistic cultural domain. Such imitative coins make up a substantial part of quite a few of the hoards of Hellenistic coins uncovered in Azerbaijan and are often found during archaeological excavations carried out on the territory of ancient Caucasian Albania (now the Azerbaijan SSR).
The history of commodity-money relations in early medieval Azerbaijan is illustrated by numerous hoards of coins consisting of silver drachmas of Sasanid Iran, coinage of Azerbaijani mints - in
Nakhichevan, Baku, Derbent, Par-tava (Barda) and a number of Byzantine silver, which reflects the rivalry and struggle between these great powers of the Orient for hegemony in Transcaucasia in the 6th-7th centuries A. D.
The conquest of Azerbaijan by the Arabs in the 7th century and some time later its incorporation in the Caliphate’s sphere of money circulation were marked by an advancement of urban economy, crafts and trade and, as a result, by the opening of new mints (Balh al-Baiza, Al-Yazidiyya, Arran, Janza, and Azerbaijan). From the second half of the 9th century A. D., when the caliph’s power in the outlands became weakening, the powerful governors of Azerbaijan seized the opportunity to turn their administrative districts into independent states and started their own dynasties enjoying the privilege of “sikka” (the monetary privilege, or the right of coinage), Azerbaijan coinage became even more intensive. The coinage, in particular, silver dirhams of such feudal Azerbaijan states as those of the Shirvanshahs-Mazyadids (in Shir-van), the Sajids, the Salarids, the Ravvadids, and the Sheddadids (in Arran) not only met the requirements of the domestic market of Azerbaijan, whose economic and cultural life was at the time on the upswing that was crowned by a true Renaissance in the llth-12th centuries, but also played the role of international money alongside the Caliphate’s coins. The intensive trade and economic life of Azerbaijan, which lay on one of the major artery roads of caravan trade between South and North in the 9th-10th centuries A.D., was characterised by a new economic phenomenon – a “silver crisis” in the money trade between the countries of the Near East, including Azerbaijan, when in the period between the 11th and the early 13th centuries – the climax of the Oriental Renaissance – silver disappeared from the sphere of circulation and was eventually replaced by mainly copper coinage. As a consequence Azerbaijani numismatics were provided with the possibility to throw light on the hitherto unknown pages of the sociopolitical history of Azerbaijan in the period of the great Nizami Gyandzhevi.
Thanks to the exceptional significance of this group of coins for studying the questions of the economic life in Azerbaijan, they are allotted the most special place in the catalogue.
Although the Mongol invasion set back the progress of the Azerbaijan Renaissance for quite a long time, the economic life in the country revived gradually. Thus, a century later nearly 30 mints (Alind-zha, Ardebil, Aresh, Astara, Babi, Bazar, Baku, Bailakan, Barda, Gyandzha, Geshtasbi, Derbent, Kabala, Kar-kar, Kara-agach, Kara-bag, Mahmudabad, Maraga, Nakhichevan, Ordubad, Salmas, Tabriz, Shabran, Shemakha, Khoi, and Urmiyya) operated in Azerbaijan, which is an unquestionable evidence of a high level of urban economy and commodity-money relations. The coins of various conquerors minted in these cities reflect like a mirror the political and socioeconomic situation in Azerbaijan in the 14th century.
In the 15th-16th centuries Azerbaijan economy and culture blossomed forth anew. Thanks to the efforts of the Shirvanshahs, a relative peace reigned in the northern part of Azerbaijan – Shir-van. The land abounded in farm products, and high-standard coins – tangas of the Shirvan-shahs -circulated throughout the whole of Transcaucasia, playing the role of a universal medium of payment. In the south of the country, in Arran and Azerbaijan, several states sprang up one after another under the aegis of the Turkic dynasties of Kara-koyunlu and Ak-koyunlu, and the Sefevids, which minted not only silver but also gold coins. After the formation of the Sefevid state in the early 16th century, objective conditions were created there for the development of productive forces and the shaping up of spiritual values. The monetary system of the Sefevids based on a heavyweight 9.4-gramme silver unit reflected in a certain sense the economic and political might of that state.
However, by the end of the 16th century protracted wars with the Osmanids in the west and the Sheibanids in the east undermined the Sefevids’ strength. Despite a certain revival in the first half of the 17th century, when a new monetary system based on a new unit, the 7-8-gramme abbasi, the Sefevids gave up their place to the Afsharids. This turbulent period in the history of Azerbaijan, full of endless wars and feudal strife is eloquently illustrated by numerous hoards of 18th-century Sefevid, Osmanid, Af-sharid and Baburid silver coins, which are often in mint condition without any traces of having been in circulation.
The liberation struggle waged by the Azerbaijan people in the second half of the 18th century, which brought about the emergence of small feudal principalities -khanates – that anonymously minted silver and copper coins, ended in the annexation of Azerbaijan to Russia under the Gyulistan Peace (1813) and the Turkmanchai Peace (1828) between Iran and the Russian Empire. The khans’ coinage was stopped, and Azerbaijan was incorporated in Russia’s sphere of money circulation.
Text by A. Kad/habli Photos by G. Guseinzade