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Iranian Azerbaijanis

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Iranian Azerbaijanis[a] (Azerbaijani: ایران آذربایجانلیلاری; Persian: ایرانیان آذربایجان) are Iranians of Azerbaijani ethnicity. They are primarily found in and are native to the region of Iranian Azerbaijan. Iranian Azerbaijanis are the second largest ethnic group in Iran.

Iranian Azeris
ایران آذربایجانلیلاری
Total population
Iran: 16%[1][2]–24%[3] of population
Regions with significant populations
  • East Azerbaijan
  • West Azerbaijan
  • Ardabil
  • Zanjan
Significant minority:
  • Hamadan
  • Tehran
  • Alborz
  • Kurdistan
  • Kermanshah
  • Qazvin
  • Markazi
  • Gilan
  • some other regions
  • Azerbaijani
  • Persian
predominantly Shia Islam[4][5]

Iranian Azerbaijanis are traditionally sensitive to their ethnic identity, but are supportive of bilingualism in Azerbaijani and Persian as well.[6]

Origin[change | change source]

Iranian Azerbaijanis are a Turkic speaking people of mostly Iranian origin.[5][7][8] According to Richard Frye, Iranian Azerbaijanis mainly descended from the earlier Iranian speakers of the region, who were Turkified after a massive migration of Oghuz Turks but still exist in smaller pockets,[5] while Olivier Roy stated that Azerbaijanis as the descendants of the Iranian population of Azerbaijan (who spoke west Iranian languages such as Tati, which is still found in residual forms), which was Turkified by Turkomans from Anatolia from the 13th century onwards.[7] The Azerbaijani language, who is lost the vocal harmony typical of Turkic languages, described as a Turkic language learned and spoken by Iranian peasants.[9]

According to Russian scholar Rostislav Rybakov, Iranian Azerbaijan was almost fully Turkicized by 14th and 15th centuries, though the local population left its mark in the Azerbaijani culture and language and the ethnic border between the Turkish people and Azerbaijanis was established in the 16th century.[10] In 1900, Joseph Deniker, stated that Azerbaijanis of Caucasus and Iran, who spoke a Turkic language, of the same physical type as Persians, who spoke an Iranian language.[11]

Genetics[change | change source]

A comparative study (2013) on the complete mitochondrial DNA diversity in Iranians has indicated that Iranian Azerbaijanis are more related to the people of Georgia, than they are to other Iranians, as well as to Armenians. The same multidimensional scaling plot demonstrates the intermediate position of Caucasian Azerbaijanis between the Azerbaijanis/Georgians and Turks/Iranians groupings.[12] There is no significant difference between them and the other major ethnic groups of Iran.[13]

According to HLA testing, Azerbaijanis of Iran cluster together with the Turkmens of Gorgan and Kurds and constitute an intermediate position between Iranian populations and Western Siberians, specifically Chuvash, Mansi people, and Buryats (subgroups of Turkic peoples, Ugrians, and Mongols respectively).[14] Several genetic studies show that the Azerbaijanis' gene pool largely overlap with that of the native populations in support of language replacement, including elite dominance, scenarios,[15] while also demonstrating significant genetic influence from Siberia and Mongolia.[16] No close genetic relationship was observed between Azerbaijanis of Iran and the people of Turkey or Central Asians.[13] A study conducted on Azerbaijanis of Tabriz in 2022 also concluded that the genetic origins and Turkic language of the Azerbaijanis are do not correlate.[17]

Identity[change | change source]

The Azerbaijanis are a Turkic speaking, predominantly Shia Muslim people and are culturally part of the Iranian peoples.[18] The Azerbaijani language belongs to the Oghuz branch of the Turkic language family.[19] Iranian Azerbaijani material culture is a result of multi-secular symbiosis, is thus a subtle combination of indigenous elements and nomadic contributions.[9]

Most of the Iranian Azerbaijanis call themselves and are referred to as "Turks" but also insist on their Iranian identity,[5][20] buttressed not only by the religious bond (being mostly Shia Muslim in contrast to the Turkish people of Anatolia, who are Sunni Muslims) but also by cultural, historical, and economic factors.[5] Iranian Azerbaijanis are committed to Iranian culture and consider their destiny to be with the Persians rather than with "other Turks".[21] Because of this, morerecently, in World War II, contact with the Azerbaijanis in Soviet Union were not overly cordial.[21]

Role of the Iranian Azerbaijanis in Iranian nationalism[change | change source]

According to Ahmadi, the nationalism in Iran is that it has been largely promoted by intellectuals coming from the ethnically populated or originally non-Persian-speaking areas of Iran, in this case, Azerbaijani-speaking elites have played a remarkable role.[22] Azerbaijani intellectuals such as Mirza Fatali Akhundov, Kazemzadeh Iranshahr, Ahmad Kasravi, Hassan Taqizadeh, Mahmoud Afshar, Taqi Arani, Yahya Zoka, Rezazadeh Shafaq, Javad Tabatabai, and others have contributed to the idea of nationalism and Iranian national identity and culture.[23]

In addition to being, one of the forerunners of modern Iranian nationalism, Akhundov is also one of the founders of modern Iranian literature.[24] Mirza Fatali Akhundov is not the only Azerbaijani intellectual in framing Iranian ultra-nationalism. Hassan Taqizadeh, the organizer of "Iran Society" in Berlin, has contributed to the development of Iranian nationalism. Since 1916 he published Kaveh periodical in Persian language, which included articles emphasizing the racial unity of Germans and Iranians.[25][26]

Mahmoud Afshar, in various articles in his journal Āyanda (1925–27, 1944–45, 1955), a political scientist, pioneered a systematic scholarly treatment of various aspects of Iranian national identity, territorial integrity, and national unity. An influential nationalist, he also displayed a strong belief in the nationalist character of Iranian people throughout the country’s long history.[27] He was the first to propose the idea of pan-Iranism to safeguard the unity and territorial integrity of the nation against the onslaught of pan-Turkism and pan-Arabism.[27]

Ahmad Kasravi was the first Iranian Azerbaijani intellectual to take a strong position against Ottoman pan-Turkists and wrote the most significant work on the Iranian identity of Azerbaijan and its original Iranian language before the Turkification, Old Azeri.[28] This work enjoyed worldwide scholarly success. The publication of this work can also be considered an affirmation of the indestructible bond of Turkophone Iranians to Iran.[29]

Kazemzadeh Iranshahr, an ardent nationalist, set forth his views in a number of essays in his journal (1922–26), and more specifically in his Tajalliyāt-e ruḥ-e irāni (lit.'the manifestation of Iranian spirit'). He had maintained a clear romantic and primordialist notion of the Aryan race and the superior character of the Iranian peoples, which has manifested itself throughout the history of the nation.[27]

Reactions to irredentism of Republic of Azerbaijan[change | change source]

In the post-Soviet era, when Elchibey, his Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, and other political elites and printed media initially launched their irredentist claims toward Iranian Azerbaijan by raising ideas such as "united Azerbaijan" or "the ques tion of southern Azerbaijan," Iranian Azerbaijanis were among the first to refute the historicity of such claims, beginning their historical, political and cultural research to launch an Iranian counter-argument.[28] Kaveh Bayat, the contemporary Iranian historical researcher, wrote the first articles on pan-Turkism.[28] In his other works, he presented documentary analysis of the early pan-Turkist claims against Iran in Turkey of the 1920s, and showed how Iranian Azerbaijani intellectuals and activists, such as Ali Sadeghi Tabrizi, Habibollah Nobakht, Taqi Arani, Moghaddam Bayat, and Rezazadeh Shafagh, were at the forefront of the fight for the defense of the Iranian identity of Azerbaijan and the Persian language.[28]

Demographics[change | change source]

Ethnic groups of Iran (Azerbaijanis as purple) in 2004 according to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Sources indicate that Azerbaijanis make up about 16 to 24 per cent of total population of Iran, making them the second largest ethnic group in Iran after the Persians.[1][2][4][3][30]

Sources[change | change source]

  • Fyre, R. N. (2004). "IRAN v. PEOPLES OF IRAN (1) A General Survey". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XIII. Fasc. 3. pp. 321–326.
  • Ashraf, Ahmad (2006). "IRANIAN IDENTITY iv. 19TH–20TH CENTURIES". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XIII. Fasc. 5. pp. 522–530.
  • Planhol, Xavier de (2004). "IRAN i. LANDS OF IRAN". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XIII. Fasc. 2. pp. 204–212.
  • Fyre, Richard (1960). Persia. Vol. 5. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-84154-5.
  • Manafzadeh, Ali Reżā (2012). "KASRAVI, AḤMAD i. LIFE AND WORK". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XVI, Fasc. 1. pp. 87–92.
  • Knüppel, Michael (2000). "TURKIC LANGUAGES OF PERSIA: AN OVERVIEW". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Roy, Olivier (2000). The New Central Asia: Geopolitics and the Birth of Nations. New York University Press. ISBN 978-1-84511-552-4.
  • Arkelova, Victoria (2015). "On the Number of Iranian Turkophones". Iran and the Caucasus. 19 (3): 279–282. doi:10.1163/1573384X-20150306. JSTOR 43899203.
  • Tapper, R. L. (1988). "AZERBAIJAN vi. Population and its Occupations and Culture". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. III, Fasc. 3. pp. 234–238.
  • Ahmadi, Hamid (2016). "The Clash of Nationalisms: Iranian Response to Baku's Irredentism". In Kamrava, Mehran (ed.). The Great Game in West Asia. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190673604.
  • Doerfer, G. (1988). "AZERBAIJAN viii. Azeri Turkish". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. III, Fasc. 3. pp. 221–224.
  • Tohidi, Nayareh (2009). "Ethnicity and Religious Minority Politics in Iran". In Gheissari, Ali (ed.). Contemporary Iran: Economy, Society, Politics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-537849-8.
  • Ahmadi, Hamid (2020). "Nationalism in Iran". In Kamrava, Mehran (ed.). Routledge Handbook of Persian Gulf Politics. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-429-20198-1.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Also known as Iranian Azeris, Iranian Turks (Azerbaijani: ایران تورکلری), Persian Turks, or Persian Azerbaijanis.
  1. 1.0 1.1 Curtis, Glenn E.; Hooglund, Eric (May 2008). "Country Profile: Iran" (PDF). Library of Congress – Federal Research Division. p. 5. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 September 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Iran". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). October 2013. Archived from the original on 3 February 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tohidi 2009, p. 300.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Iran - Azeris". Minority Rights Group International. Archived from the original on 22 October 2023. Retrieved 22 October 2023. {{cite web}}: |archive-date= / |archive-url= timestamp mismatch; 20 June 2023 suggested (help)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Fyre 2004, pp. 321–326.
  6. Mirvahedi, Seyed Hadi, ed. (2019). The Sociolinguistics of Iran's Languages at Home and Abroad: The Case of Persian, Azerbaijani, and Kurdish. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 53.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Roy 2000, p. 6.
  8. Arkelova 2015, p. 279.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Planhol 2004, p. 204–212.
  10. ""History of the East" ("Transcaucasia in 11th–15th centuries" in Rostislav Borisovich Rybakov (editor), History of the East. 6 volumes. v. 2. "East during the Middle Ages: Chapter V., 2002. – ISBN 5-02-017711-3. "Восток в средние века. V. Закавказье в XI-XV вв". Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2011-03-30. )".
  11. Deniker, Joseph (1900). Races et peuples de la terre (in French). Paris, France: Schleicher frères. p. 349. Archived from the original on 21 March 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2016. Ce groupement ne coïncide pas non-plus avec le groupement somatologique : ainsi, les Aderbaïdjani du Caucase et de la Perse, parlant une langue turque, ont le mème type physique que les Persans-Hadjemi, parlant une langue iranienne.
  12. Derenko, M., Malyarchuk, B., Bahmanimehr, A., Denisova, G., Perkova, M., Farjadian, S., & Yepiskoposyan, L. (2013). Complete Mitochondrial DNA Diversity in Iranians Archived 2015-01-02 at the Wayback Machine. PLoS ONE, 8(11), e80673.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Farjadian, S.; Ghaderi, A. (December 2007). "HLA class II similarities in Iranian Kurds and Azeris". International Journal of Immunogenetics. 34 (6): 457–463. doi:10.1111/j.1744-313x.2007.00723.x. ISSN 1744-3121. PMID 18001303. S2CID 22709345. Neighbor‐joining tree based on Nei's genetic distances and correspondence analysis according to DRB1, DQA1 and DQB1 allele frequencies showed a strong genetic tie between Kurds and Azeris of Iran. The results of AMOVA revealed no significant difference between these populations and other major ethnic groups of Iran. No close genetic relationship was observed between Azeris of Iran and the people of Turkey or Central Asians. According to the current results, present-day Kurds and Azeris of Iran seem to belong to a common genetic pool.
  14. Arnaiz-Villena, Antonio; Palacio-Gruber, Jose; Muñiz, Ester; Rey, Diego; Nikbin, Behrouz; Nickman, Hosein; Campos, Cristina; Martín-Villa, José Manuel; Amirzargar, Ali (2017). "Origin of Azeris (Iran) according to HLA genes". International Journal of Modern Anthropology. 1 (10): 115–138. doi:10.4314/ijma.v1i10.5. Azeris are integrated in the first cluster, together with Gorgan (Iranian Turkmen population (Rey et al. 2014)) and Kurds (Armirzargar et al. 2015), and in intermediate position between Iranian populations (Gonzalez-Galarza et al. 2011), and western Siberians: Russian Chuvash (who live near lower Volga River, 126 North Caspian Sea (Arnaiz-Villena et al. 2003)), Russian Siberian Mansi (from western Siberia (Uinuk-Ool et al. 2002)), Russian-Mongols Buryat (from Baikal Lake region (Uinuk-Ool et al. 2002)) and Russian Siberian Todja (from western Siberia, inhabiting in the northeastern part of Tuva Republic (Uinuk-Ool et al. 2002)).
  15. Yepiskoposian, L.; et al. (2011). "The Location of Azaris on the Patrilineal Genetic Landscape of the Middle East (A Preliminary Report)". Iran and the Caucasus. 15 (1): 73–78. doi:10.1163/157338411X12870596615395.
  16. Yunusbayev, Bayazit; Metspalu, Mait; Metspalu, Ene; Valeev, Albert; Litvinov, Sergei; Valiev, Ruslan; Akhmetova, Vita; Balanovska, Elena; Balanovsky, Oleg; Turdikulova, Shahlo; Dalimova, Dilbar (2015-04-21). "The Genetic Legacy of the Expansion of Turkic-Speaking Nomads across Eurasia". PLOS Genetics. 11 (4): e1005068. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005068. ISSN 1553-7404. PMC 4405460. PMID 25898006. Our ADMIXTURE analysis (Fig 2) revealed that Turkic-speaking populations scattered across Eurasia tend to share most of their genetic ancestry with their current geographic non-Turkic neighbors. This is particularly obvious for Turkic peoples in Anatolia, Iran, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe, but more difficult to determine for northeastern Siberian Turkic speakers, Yakuts and Dolgans, for which non-Turkic reference populations are absent. We also found that a higher proportion of Asian genetic components distinguishes the Turkic speakers all over West Eurasia from their immediate non-Turkic neighbors. These results support the model that expansion of the Turkic language family outside its presumed East Eurasian core area occurred primarily through language replacement, perhaps by the elite dominance scenario, that is, intrusive Turkic nomads imposed their language on indigenous peoples due to advantages in military and/or social organization(...) Thus, it is likely that migrants of SSM origin interacted with many of the ancestors of contemporary West Eurasian populations, but it was the stronger interaction (reflected in higher IBD sharing) with migrant SSM ancestors that drove Turkicization. We performed a permutation test for each western Turkic population and the observed excess of IBD sharing (compared to non-Turkic neighbors) with the SSM area populations was statistically significant (Fig 4 and S4 Fig).
  17. Arnaiz-Villena, Antonio; Palacio-Gruber, José; Amirzargar, Ali; Vaquero-Yuste, Christian; Molina-Alejandre, Marta; Sánchez-Orta, Alejandro; Heras, Alba; Nikbin, Behrouz; Suarez-Trujillo, Fabio (2022-06-01). "HLA alleles and haplotypes in Iran Tabriz Azeris population: genes and languages do not correlate". Human Immunology. 83 (6): 477–479. doi:10.1016/j.humimm.2022.04.002. ISSN 0198-8859. Turks entered to the area from Central Asia and imposed their language to all different ethnicities with no documented gene flow. [...] The fact that Azeris speak a Turkish language is probably a reflection of the "elite" but not massive invasion of this group in the area; in Anatolia, it is shown the same type of Asian Turks invasion without noticeable gene input. Invaders imposed a language but not genes, because nowadays Anatolian Turkish belong to the Older Mediterranean substrate together with Cretans, Sardinians and Macedonians.
  18. "Land and People" In "Azerbaijan, country, Asia". Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Columbia University Press. "The Azeri (Azerbaijani), a Turkic-speaking, Shiite Muslim people of Persian culture, make up about 90% of the republic's population; Dagestanis, Russians, and Armenians (largely in Nagorno-Karabakh) are the largest minorities."
  19. Doerfer 1988, p. 245–248.
  20. Tapper 1988, p. 234–238.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Fyre 1960, p. 17.
  22. Ahmadi 2020, p. 268.
  23. Ahmadi 2020, p. 268–269.
  24. Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition (New York: Columbia University Press), 1995, pp. 27–28:
  25. بهنام، جمشید (1386). برلنی ها: اندیشمندان ایرانی در برلن 1915–1930. نشر فرزان، تهران.
  26. فشار یزدی، محمود (1338). "زوال زبان فارسی یعنی زوال ملت ایران." در آینده، دوره چهارم، شماره 4، مسلسل 44 (اسفند 1388)، صص 268-
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Ashraf 2006, p. 522–530.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 Ahmadi 2016, p. 121.
  29. Manafzadeh 2012, p. 87–92.
  30. Bani-Shoraka, Helena (1 July 2009). "Cross-generational bilingual strategies among Azerbaijanis in Tehran". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2009 (198): 106. doi:10.1515/IJSL.2009.029. ISSN 1613-3668. S2CID 144993160. The latest figures estimate the Azerbaijani population at 24% of Iran's 70 million inhabitants (NVI 2003/2004: 301). This means that there are between 15 and 20 million Azerbaijanis in Iran.