In 1501 Ismail I, a regional Sufi leader established the Safavid dynasty with the support of tribes of the Sufi Qizibash movement. He became the shah of Azerbaijan and thereafter Persia. Before Ismail united Persia, its rule had been split amongst a number of regional leaders following the disintegration of the Timurid Empire. From 1512, when Iran was fully united under Shia Safavid rule, the empire enjoyed a period of territorial expansion. Its main political and ideological rival was the Sunni Ottoman Empire to the west, with which it was almost constantly engaged in border conflicts. The Uzbeks, who were controlled by different regional leaders, were also engaged in numerous territorial disputes as the Safavids encroached on their lands. The Safavids were briefly deposed between 1722–29 by a Sunni Afghan rebellion at the Battle of Gulnabad and lost territory on the Caspian Sea to the Russians in the 1722 Russo-Persian War.
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