Reviews

In the article the forced migration policies of Shah ‘Abbas I (r. 1587-1629) are discussed in detail, through the newly discovered third volume of Fazli Khuzani’s Afzal al-tawarikh. The Caucasus was a frontier and a place of transformation for the Safavids to achieve the consolidation of state power. To explain how the Caucasians were integrated into the Safavid royal household, the physical transportation of peoples, i.e. forced migrations of the population should be paid enough attention. The first chapter reveals the aim of the study. It intends to sketch the development of Shah ‘Abbas’ forced migration policies and its interaction with both ‘internal’ and ‘external’ factors. It gives an insight into the historical formation of multi-ethnic Caucasian society which is rarely mentioned before the Russian conquest of the region.

The next chapter discusses the feature of Shah ‘Abbas’ policy towards tribal elements. The Qizil Bash’s flexibility as a political unit and their superior mobility were of great advantage for Safavid influence to penetrate deeply into the Caucasian vernacular society. However, having settled, they soon became ‘local elements’ of their own. Shah ‘Abbas was replacing their leaders or sometimes temporarily was exiling them. Towards the end of his reign he also made use of the ghulams, the new Caucasian élites, for checking tribal powers. Another result of Shah ‘Abbas’ policy was the creation of new tribes. The impressing description by Fazli of the development of the Muqaddam tribe (which emigrated to Maragha after the suppression of its Kurdish leaders) is paid much attention. These moves connected with the re-allotment of space as well as the reorganisation of tribal institutions and political balances in the provinces. The migration of tribal elements from Ottoman territory was also a continuous feature of this period.

The following chapter deals with the forced migration of sedentary population into Safavid inner territories. Land was often abandoned and the population was forcefully evacuated as a result of the ‘traditional’ scorched-earth policies. Fazli’s description suggests that the protection of refugee could have been priority at first stage, but it developed into a fixed policy to exploit the royal economic interests with punitive intention in the course of events. It already turned to a part and parcel of Shah ‘Abbas’ integration policy. Large-scale transportations happened during three decisive years in of Shah ‘Abbas’ forty-two-year reign. A number of Caucasian populations were deported to central Iran and to the coast of the Caspian Sea during Shah ‘Abbas’ military expedition in the Caucasus in 1614-16. The inner political climate of these years showed extremely influential. Many of the dominant courtiers were eliminated or left the political scene before and during these punitive expeditions. Severe political changes reached their height at the assassination of Crown Prince Safi (Muhammad-Baqir) Mirza. Fazli gives us a detailed description of ‘state protection’ (not enslavement in legal meaning, though of course by the context of Safavid authority) towards deportees. It is pointed out that not only ethnic identity but also social background is reflected in the deportation policy.

In his conclusion the author argues that the regional reorganisation in the Caucasus was closely connected with that of state order. Forced migration means more than just the physical transformation of human beings. Shah ‘Abbas’ basic policy was to divide the space and groups and then let those social units compete against each other. He intended to extend this complexity of rivalry in the Caucasus as well as inside the court. When he had a clear intention to punish local élites of the region who had coped with Ottoman authority during occupation, the character of the Caucasian society gave enough incentive to Shah ‘Abbas to reorganise the regional order in conjugation with state reconfiguration using new Caucasian subjects. The article ends with two appendixes: (1) miscellaneous events described in Fazli and Iskandar Big’s chronicles concerning the migration of peoples around the Caucasus; (2) a brief edition of Fazli’s description on the Caucasus with the Persian original and an English translation.

The Redaction
CER: II-3.3.B-213