Kara Koyunlu

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]

Kara Koyunlular

Black Sheep Turkomans
قره قویونلو
Kara Koyunlu of the Turkomans, lighter blue shows their greatest extent in Iraq and Arabian East Coast for a small period of time
Kara Koyunlu of the Turkomans, lighter blue shows their greatest extent in Iraq and Arabian East Coast for a small period of time
Common languages
• 1375–1378
Bayram Xoca
• 1467–1468
Hasan 'Ali
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Ag Qoyunlu


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.

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]

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]

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.

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.


Tour d'Erivan

Erivan tower. 1838

Argavand Funerary Tower3

Graveyard in Argavand, fragment in Arabic.

Argavand Funerary Tower4

Graveyard in Argavand, fragment in Arabic.

See also


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ a b Kouymjian. "Armenia", p. 5.
  11. ^ Kouymjian. "Armenia", pp. 6–7.

Works cited

Further reading

  • Bosworth, Clifford. The New Islamic Dynasties, 1996.
  • (in Armenian) Khachikyan, Levon. ԺԵ դարի հայերեն ձեռագրերի հիշատակարաններ, մաս 1 (Fifteenth Century Armenian Colophons, Part 1). Yerevan, 1955.
  • Morby, John. The Oxford Dynasties of the World, 2002.
  • Sanjian, Avedis K. Colophons of Armenian manuscripts, 1301-1480: A Source for Middle Eastern History, Selected, Translated, and Annotated by Avedis K. Sanjian. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969.
Alvand Mirza (Kara Koyunlu)

Alvand Mirza was a ruler of Amid and Asadabad and the direct descendant of Qara Iskander.

Armenian Mesopotamia

Armenian Mesopotamia was a region in Northern Mesopotamia that was inhabited partly by Armenians, Tigranes the Great seized Northern Mesopotamia, and from 401 BC, to 387 AD was part of Kingdom of Armenia. Later it became part of Sassanid Empire, Arab Caliphate, Buyids, County of Edessa, Timurids, Kara Koyunlu, Ak Koyunlu, and the Safavids. Then, following the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab, it became part of the Ottoman Empire (although briefly taken by Nader Shah of the Iranian Afsharid dynasty) and Turkey. Armenian population remained until 1915's Armenian Genocide.

Battle of Algami Canal

The Battle of Algami Canal was fought between Kara Koyunlu under their Bey, Qara Yusuf and the Timurid Empire under the leadership of Timur's grandson Abu Bakr bin Miran Shah for control of Baghdad and therefore Iraq in late 1402.

Battle of Chalagan

The Battle of Chalagan was fought between the Kara Koyunlu and the allied forces of Kingdom of Georgia and Shirvanshah at Chalagan, Azerbaijan, in December, 1412, and resulted in Kara Koyunlu’s victory.

Battle of Chapakchur

The Battle of Chapakchur (Turkish:Çapakçur) was a decisive battle fought between Kara Koyunlu (Black Sheep Turkomen) under the leadership of Jahan Shah and Aq Qoyunlu (White Sheep Turkomen) under the leadership of Uzun Hasan. Jahan Shah was defeated by Uzun Hasan in a battle near the sanjak of Çapakçur in present-day eastern Turkey on October 30 (or November 11), 1467.

Battle of Nakhchivan (1406)

The Battle of Nakhchivan was fought between Kara Koyunlu under their Bey, Qara Yusuf and the Timurid Empire under the leadership of Timur's grandson Abu Bakr bin Miran Shah for control of Azerbaijan on October 14, 1406. Qara Yusuf decisively defeated the Timurids in this battle and took over Tabriz the capital of Azerbaijan.

Battle of Qara-Derrah Pass

The Battle of Qara-Derrah Pass was fought between Pir Muhammad ibn Umar Shaikh Mirza I of the Timurid Empire and Abu Nasr Qara Yusuf of the Kara Koyunlu confederation of Turkmen people in eastern Turkey near Lake Van in the year 1395 C.E.

Constantine I of Georgia

Constantine I (Georgian: კონსტანტინე I, Konstantine I) (died 1412) was King of Georgia from 1405 or 1407 until his death in 1412. He is the common ancestor of all surviving branches of the Bagrationi dynasty.

Hasan Ali

Hasan Ali (also spelled Hassan Ali) can refer to:

Hasan Ali (Kara Koyunlu), last ruler of the Kara Koyunlu Turkmen tribal federation

Hasan Ali (cricketer), Pakistani cricketer

Hasan Ali (footballer), United Arab Emirates footballer

Hasan Ali Khan, Indian businessman

Hasan ibn Ali, grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad

Hasan Mohamed Ali, Malaysian politician

Hasan Ali (politician), Iraqi politician, of Regional Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region

Kamal Hassan Ali, Egyptian politician

Hassan Ali (kabaddi), Pakistani kabaddi player

Hasan Ali (Kara Koyunlu)

Hasan 'Ali (died 1468) — was the last effective ruler of the Kara Koyunlu Turkmen tribal federation, ruling for just one year from 1467–68.

Jahan Shah

Muzaffar al-Din Jahan Shah ibn Yusuf (1397 in Khoy or 1405 in Mardin – 1467 in Bingöl) (Persian: جهان شاه‎; Azerbaijani: Cahan Şah/جهان شاه) 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.

List of rulers of Kara Koyunlu

This is the list of rulers of the Kara Koyunlu dynasty ("The Horde of the Black Sheep"). The dynasty ruled the territory now part of present-day Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and eastern Turkey. Their capital was the city of Tabriz.

Mausoleum of Kara Koyunlu emirs

The Mausoleum of Kara Koyunlu emirs or Mausoleum of Turkmen emirs (Emir Pir-Hussein Mausoleum), is a Kara Koyunlu mausoleum erected in 1413 and located in the village of Argavand, Ararat Province, on the outskirts of the Armenian capital Yerevan. The tomb was restored and ceremonially reopened to the public in 2002.

Qara Iskander

Qara Iskander (Persian: قرا اسکندر‎) ruled the Kara Koyunlu or Black Sheep Turcoman tribe from 1420 to 1436. His struggles with the Timurid ruler Shah Rukh show that he was a brave leader, but he was not able to continue developing what he inherited from his father Qara Yusuf and his reign saw the decline and attenuation of the Kara Koyunlu.

Qara Yusuf

Abu Nasr Qara Yusuf ibn Mohammad Barani (c. 1356 – 1420) was the ruler of the Kara Koyunlu dynasty (or "Black Sheep Turkomans") from c.1388 to 1420, although his reign was interrupted by Tamerlane's invasion (1400–1405). He was the son of Qara Mahammad, a brother-in-law to Ahmad Jalayir.

Safdar Jang

For the districts in Delhi, see Safdarjung (Delhi).Abul Mansur Mirza Muhammad Muqim Ali Khan better known as Safdar Jang (Urdu: صفدرجنگ‎, Hindi: सफ़्दरजंग),(b. c. 1708 – d. 5 October 1754), was the Subadar Nawab of Oudh (the ruler of the Indian state of Oudh, also known as Awadh) from 19 March 1739 to 5 October 1754. He was a descendant of Qara Yusuf from the Kara Koyunlu.

Shah Muhammad (Kara Koyunlu)

Shah Muhammad (died 5 August 1433) was a son of Qara Yusuf and a governor of Baghdad. He was appointed to this post in 1410. He supported Qara Iskander in his struggle to throne. He was soon deposed by Ispend bin Yusuf and sent into exile to Hamadan. He was murdered on orders of Baba Haji Hamadani - governor of Gaverud. His son, Shah Ali fled to Qara Iskander.

Timeline of 15th-century Muslim history

This is a timeline of major events in the Muslim world from 1400 AD to 1499 AD (803 AH – 905 AH).

Turkmen incursions into Georgia

After the devastating invasions by Timur and subsequent enfeeblement of the Kingdom of Georgia, it soon faced a new threat. Timur's death in 1405 marked the beginning of the end of his Empire, unified only by fear and blood of the subjected peoples. Turkomans, particularly the Kara Koyunlu clan, were among the first to rebel against Shah Rukh who ruled most of the Persia and Mawerannahr. Qara Yusuf, ruler of the Kara Koyunlu, defeated Shah Rukh, captured Baghdad, and repulsed Timurids from western Persia. After they established themselves as the new leading power in the middle east. They took advantage of the temporary weakness of Georgians and launched attacks against them, apparently in which, George VII of Georgia was killed. Constantine I of Georgia, fearing further encroachment, allied himself with the Shirvanshah Ibrahim I to counter Turkoman advance and engaged them in the Battle of Chalagan, in which he was defeated and taken captive. In captivity Constantine behaved very proudly, which infuriated Qara Yusuf to such an extent, that he ordered his, his half-brother David's and 300 Georgian nobles' execution.

Alexander I of Georgia who sought to strengthen and restore his declining Kingdom, faced constant invasions by the tribal Turkomans. They sacked Akhaltsikhe, city of the vital regional importance in 1416, in response of suggested oppression of Muslims. Alexander re-conquered Lorri from the Turkomans in 1431, which was of great importance in securing of the Georgian borders. Around 1434/5, Alexander encouraged the Armenian prince Beshken II Orbelian to attack the Kara Koyunlu clansmen in Siunia and, for his victory, granted him Lorri under terms of vassalage. In 1440, Alexander refused to pay tribute to Jahan Shah of the Kara Koyunlu. In March, Jahan Shah surged into Georgia with 20,000 troops, destroyed the city of Samshvilde and sacked the capital city Tbilisi. He massacred thousands of Christians, put heavy indemnity on Georgia, and returned to Tabriz. He also mounted a second military expedition against Georgia in 1444. His forces met those of Alexander’s successor, King Vakhtang IV at Akhaltsikhe, but the fighting was inconclusive and Jahan Shah returned to Tabriz once more.

As a result of foreign and internal struggles unified Kingdom of Georgia stopped to exist after 1466 and was subdivided into several political units. Kara Koyunlu tribal confederation was destroyed by Aq Qoyunlu, their kin tribesmen who formed another confederation, which was similar in many ways to its predecessor. Aq Qoyunlu Turkomans naturally took advantage of the Georgian fragmentation. Georgia was at least twice attacked by Uzun Hasan, the prince of the Aq Qoyunlu in 1466, 1472 and possibly 1476-7. Bagrat VI of Georgia, temporary ruler of most of Georgia at the time, had to make peace with the invaders, abandoning Tbilisi to the enemy. It was only after Uzun Hasan’s death (1478) when the Georgians were able to recover their capital. In the winter of 1488, the Ak Koyunlu Turkomans led by Halil Bey attacked Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, and took the city after a long-lasted siege in February 1489. Alexander II of Imereti, another pretender to the throne, took advantage of the Aq Qoyunlu Turkoman invasion of Kartli, and seized control of Imereti. Occupation of the capital did not last long and Constantine II of Georgia was able to repel them, but it was still costly to Georgians. Ismail I, founder of the Safavid dynasty, formed an alliance with the Georgians in 1502 and decisively defeated Aq Qoyunlu in the same year, destroying their state and marking the end of their invasions.

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