The Safavid dynasty was the greatest Iranian empire after the Arab conquest, ruled Iran for about 200 years (1502-1722) and was named after a branch of Islam religion -Safavieh- that was founded by sheikh Safi al-Din in Ardabil. They were the first dynasty to announce Shi'ism as the official religion of the state.
In Safavid period the unity of all the provinces of Iran was regained. Their origin is subject to doubt and debate among the historians but is said to be Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Greek and maybe even Arab race; however, their official language was Azerbaijani though Persian was also used for many purposes.
They started their political activities in Ardabil where they had settled since the 5th century. The founder of the dynasty was shah Ismail who believed in Shi'ism. Having established the Safavid dynasty, he started to expand his domain and after about 10 years had seized almost all of Iran and the neighboring lands.
The most remarkable and renowned figure of the Safavid Empire was shah Abbas I who ascended the throne in 1587.he put an end to the several battles between themselves and the Ottomans. Through several wars, he recaptured the lands that the previous kings had lost to the enemies. In a battle with the Kurdish tribes, he removed a group of Kurds to Khorasan the descendants of whom are still living there. The ruling time of shah Abbas I was one of the most prosperous periods in Iran history. He died in 1629 and this was the beginning f the decline of the Safavid Empire.
Because of the inefficiency of shah sultan Hussein, the Afghans entered Iran and captured Isfahan, the capital of the Safavids. Sultan Hussein’s successors had even less power than he himself and he can be considered as the last king of the Safavid dynasty.
During the Safavid Empire, the international commerce had a considerable growth. Literature also gained a new spirit and flourished. Several of Safavid kings wrote poems both in Persian and Azerbaijani. The samples of the Safavids’ magnificent buildings can be seen in Isfahan, the heartland of Islamic architecture.