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August 21, 2016 | Author: admin
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Above: Gravure of Shemakhi by Engelbert Kaempfer (1683) "Schamachia" im Gebürg der Provinz Schirwan".

The Silk Roads – caravan ways from China to Europe – passed through the territory of the present-day Azerbaijan Republic. These roads played an important role in the intercultural exchange in the region. In the early medieval period and later, Silk Roads connected China with Arab Caliphate and European countries, and contributed to cultural dialogue, growth of cities and development of economics in the region.

Since the 12th century, the relations of cities of Azerbaijan with Rome, and Venetian and Genoese Republics started to develop. Marco Polo (1254-1323) wrote about the famous kinds of silk produced in the Shirvan province of Azerbaijan. In those times, Genoese traders founded their colonies on the shores of Caspian. They bargained silk, carpets, jewelry and other goods. Italians even had vessels in Caspian.

Similarly, Adam Olearius (1599-1671), a traveler and diplomat who visited Shirvan in the 17th century, wrote that Azerbaijan produced up to 2.5 million kg of silk cloth each year. In the town of Shaki alone, 14 000 families were engaged in silkworm breeding and produced approximately 240 tons of raw silk each year. Part of this silk was exported; the other part was woven and dyed in local factories.

The British traveler and trader Antony Jenkinson (1529-1611) did secure “a decree on privileges” from the beglerbeg (governor) of Shirvan, Abdulla Khan Ustajlu. The decree said: “Considering the persistent results by the gentle and dear envoy Antony Jenkinson, We, Abdulla Khan, who rule Shirvan and Hirkan, with the blessing of Allah, creator of the Earth and Heavens, have shown goodwill and kindness to bestow the following residents of the English City of London – Sir William Herr, Sir William Chester, Sir Thomas Loge, Mr. Richard Mallory and Richard Chamberlain – and their trade company with full freedom, the right to cross freely [custom offices] and visit our country… to trade with cash or to barter goods, to stay in our country as long as they wish, and to leave the country freely whenever they wish.”

Namely the Silk Way contributed to development of cities in Azerbaijan. One of big cities, situated on the Silk Roads was Shamakhi. Now, Shamakhi is one of important administrative centers in the Republic of Azerbaijan. In the 9th– 16th centuries Shamakhi was the capital of Shirvanshah State, which included most part of the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan. In the 12th century, population of Shamakhi was about 200 000, and it was significantly larger than London or Paris at that time.

It was a beautiful city having numerous caravansaries, palaces, bathhouses, schools (madrasas) and libraries. Besides, Shamakhi was an important center of the silk trade. Marco Polo (1254-1324) wrote that the silk from Shirvan is very qualitative, and it is imported from Shamakhi to European countries. The merchants from Genoa and Venice had their trade offices in Shamakhi, Baku and other cities of Azerbaijan. In the 17th century Shamakhi was visited by the German traveler and scholar Engelbert Kaempher (1651-1716). He described Shamakhi as an important trade center in Caucasus.

In different periods, this city was a center of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. Imadaddin Nasimi (1369-1417), the great mystical poet from Shamakhi, and the court poet Khagani Shirvani (1120-1199) had good knowledge of not only Islam, but also of Christian and Zoroastrian religions. Khagani in his poem “Tohfatul-Iraqeyn” (“The gift of two Iraqs”) writes that he knows perfectly Quran, Old and New Testaments, as well as Zend Avesta, and that “the gates of hospitality” are opened for him in Georgia and Byzantium. He also used in his poems the words and expressions in Greek and Georgian languages.

Source: Farid Alakbarli.Silk Roads.