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Iranian Azerbaijanis also known as Iranian Azeris, Iranian Turks, Azeri Turks or Persian Azerbaijanis, are Iranians of Azerbaijani ethnicity. Iranian Azerbaijanis are mainly found in the northwest provinces of East Azerbaijan, Ardabil, Zanjan, parts of West Azerbaijan, and in smaller numbers, in other provinces such as Kurdistan, Qazvin, Hamadan, Gilan and Markazi. Iranian Azerbaijanis also constitute a significant minority in Tehran, Karaj and other regions.
According to the scholar of historical geography, Xavier de Planhol: “Azeri material culture, a result of this multi-secular symbiosis, is thus a subtle combination of indigenous elements and nomadic contributions…. It is a Turkish language learned and spoken by Iranian peasants”. According to Richard Frye:"The Turkish speakers of Azerbaijan (q.v.) are mainly descended from the earlier Iranian speakers, several pockets of whom still exist in the region.". According to Olivier Roy: "The mass of the Oghuz Turkic tribes who crossed the Amu Darya towards the west left the Iranian plateau, which remained Persian, and established themselves more to the west, in Anatolia. Here they divided into Ottomans, who were Sunni and settled, and Turkmens, who were nomads and in part Shiite (or, rather, Alevi). The latter were to keep the name “Turkmen”for a long time: from the 13th century onwards they “Turkised”the Iranian populations of Azerbaijan (who spoke west Iranian languages such as Tat, which is still found in residual forms), thus creating a new identity based on Shiism and the use of Turkish. These are the people today known as Azeris.". According to Rybakov: "Speaking of the Azerbaijan culture originating at that time, in the XIV-XV cc., one must bear in mind, first of all, literature and other parts of culture organically connected with the language. As for the material culture, it remained traditional even after the Turkicization of the local population. However, the presence of a massive layer of Iranians that took part in the formation of the Azerbaijani ethnos, have imposed its imprint, primarily on the lexicon of the Azerbaijani language which contains a great number of Iranian and Arabic words. The latter entered both the Azerbaijani and the Turkish language mainly through the Iranian intermediary. Having become independent, the Azerbaijani culture retained close connections with the Iranian and Arab cultures. They were reinforced by common religion and common cultural-historical traditions.”.
The Iranian origins of the Azerbaijanis likely derive from ancient Iranic tribes, such as the Medes in Iranian Azerbaijan, and Scythian invaders who arrived during the 8th century BCE. It is believed that the Medes mixed with an indigenous population, the Caucasian Mannai, a Northeast Caucasian group related to the Urartians. Ancient written accounts, such as one written by Arab historian Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Masudi (896–956), attest to an Iranian presence in the region:
|“||The Persians are a people whose borders are the Mahat Mountains and Azerbaijan up to Armenia and Aran, and Bayleqan and Darband, and Ray and Tabaristan and Masqat and Shabaran and Jorjan and Abarshahr, and that is Nishabur, and Herat and Marv and other places in land of Khorasan, and Sejistan and Kerman and Fars and Ahvaz...All these lands were once one kingdom with one sovereign and one language...although the language differed slightly. The language, however, is one, in that its letters are written the same way and used the same way in composition. There are, then, different languages such as Pahlavi, Dari, Azeri, as well as other Persian languages.||”|
Scholars see cultural similarities between modern Persians and Azerbaijanis as evidence of an ancient Iranian influence. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism was prominent throughout the Caucasus before Christianity and Islam and that the influence of various Persian Empires added to the Iranian character of the area. It has also been hypothesized that the population of Iranian Azerbaijan was predominantly Persian-speaking before the Oghuz arrived. This claim is supported by the many figures of Persian literature, such as Qatran Tabrizi, Shams Tabrizi, Nezami, and Khaghani, who wrote in Persian prior to and during the Oghuz migration, as well as by Strabo, Al-Istakhri, and Al-Masudi, who all describe the language of the region as Persian. The claim is mentioned by other medieval historians, such as Al-Muqaddasi. Other common Perso-Azeribaijani features include Iranian place names such as Tabriz and the name Azerbaijan itself.
Various sources such as Encyclopaedia Iranica explain how, "The Turkish speakers of Azerbaijan (q.v.) are mainly descended from the earlier Iranian speakers, several pockets of whom still exist in the region." The modern presence of the Iranian Talysh and Tats in Azerbaijan is further evidence of the former Iranian character of the region. As a precursor to these modern groups, the ancient Azaris are also hypothesized as ancestors of the modern Azerbaijanis.
Iranian Azerbaijanis played a major role in the constitutional revolution and figures such as Sattar Khan, Mohammad Khiabani and Baqer Khan were instrumental for its success. Tabriz was also one of the founding cities for the call for the constitutional revolution.
Role of Iranian Azerbaijani intellectuals in modern Iranian Nationalism
On the eve of World War I, pan-Turkist propaganda focused on the Turkic-speaking lands of Iran, Caucusus and Central Asia. The ultimate purpose was to persuade these populations to secede from the larger political entities to which they belonged and join the new pan-Turkic homeland. It was the latter appeal to Iranian Azerbaijanis, which, contrary to Pan-Turkist intentions, caused a small group of Azerbaijani intellectuals to become the strongest advocates of the territorial integrity of Iran. After the constitutional revolution in Iran, a romantic nationalism was adopted by Azerbaijani Democrats as a reaction to the pan-Turkist irredentist policies threatening Iran’s territorial integrity. It was during this period that Iranism and linguistic homogenization policies were proposed as a defensive nature against all others. Contrary to what one might expect, foremost among innovating this defensive nationalism were Iranian Azerbaijanis. They viewed that assuring the territorial integrity of the country was the first step in building a society based on law and a modern state. Through this framework, their political loyalty outweighed their ethnic and regional affiliations. The adoption of these integrationist policies paved the way for the emergence of the titular ethnic group’s cultural nationalism.
WWII and Soviet intervention
In 1945, Soviet troops moved into Iranian Azerbaijan and a short lived Soviet-backed puppet regime by the name of "Azerbaijan People's Government" was founded through direct order of the Soviet leadership. The regime was led by Mir Jafar Pishevari. However, the Soviet soon realized their idea was premature, the mass of population did not support separatism; under largely Western pressure, the Soviet troops withdrew which resulted in the quick collapse of their client state.
Islamic republic era and today
However with the advent of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, emphasis shifted away from nationalism as the new government highlighted religion as the main unifying factor. Within the Islamic Revolutionary government there emerged an Azerbaijani nationalist faction led by Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, who advocated greater regional autonomy and wanted the constitution to be revised to include secularists and opposition parties; this was denied. Other Azerbaijanis played an important rule in the revolution including Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Sadeq Khalkhali, and Ali Khamenei.
Ethnic status in Iran
Generally, Azerbaijanis in Iran were regarded as "a well integrated linguistic minority" by academics prior to Iran's Islamic Revolution. Despite friction, Azerbaijanis in Iran came to be well represented at all levels of, "political, military, and intellectual hierarchies, as well as the religious hierarchy.". In addition, the current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, is half Azerbaijani. In contrast to the claims of de facto discrimination of some Azerbaijanis in Iran, the government claims that its policy in the past 30 years has been one of pan-Islamism, which is based on a common Islamic religion of which diverse ethnic groups may be part, and which does not favor or repress any particular ethnicity, including the Persian majority. Persian language is thus merely used as the lingua franca of the country, which helps maintain Iran's traditional centralized model of government. More recently, the Azerbaijani language and culture starts being taught and studied at university level in Iran, and there appears to exist publications of books, newspapers and apparently, regional radio broadcasts too in the language.
Furthermore, Article 15 of Iran's constitution reads:
- "The use of regional and tribal languages in the press and mass media, as well as for teaching of their literature in schools, is allowed in addition to Persian."
According to Professor. Nikki R. Keddie of UCLA: One can purchase newspapers, books, music tapes, and videos in Azerbaijani Turkish and Kurdish, and there are radio and television stations in ethnic areas that broadcast news and entertainment programs in even more languages.
Azerbaijani nationalism has oscillated since the Islamic revolution and recently escalated into riots over the publication in May 2006 of a cartoon that many Azerbaijanis found offensive. The cartoon was drawn by Mana Neyestani, an ethnic Azerbaijani, who was fired along with his editor as a result of the controversy.
|“||The life styles of urban Azeri do not differ from those of Persians, and there is considerable intermarriage among the upper classes in cities of mixed populations. Similarly, customs among Azeri villagers do not appear to differ markedly from those of Persian villagers.||”|
Azerbaijanis in Iran are in high positions of authority with the Azerbaijani Ayatollah Ali Khamenei currently sitting as the Supreme Leader. Azerbaijanis in Iran remain quite conservative in comparison to most Azerbaijanis in the Republic of Azerbaijan. Nonetheless, since the Republic of Azerbaijan's independence in 1991, there has been renewed interest and contact between Azerbaijanis on both sides of the border. Andrew Burke writes:
|“||Azeri are famously active in commerce and in bazaars all over Iran their voluble voices can be heard. Older Azeri men where the traditional wool hat and their music and dances have become part of the mainstream culture. Azeris are well integrated and many Azeri Iranians are prominent in Persian literature, politics and clerical world.||”|
According to Bulent Gokay:
|“||The Northern part of Iran , that used to be called Azerbaijan , is inhabited by 17 million Azeris. This population has been traditionally well integrated with the multi-ethnic Iranian state.||”|
Richard Thomas, Roger East, and Alan John Day state:
|“||The 15–20 million Azeri Turks living in northern Iran, ethnically identical to Azeris, have embraced Shia Islam and are well integrated into Iranian society||”|
According Michael P. Croissant:
|“||Although Iran's fifteen-million Azeri population is well integrated into Iranian society and has shown little desire to secede, Tehran has nonetheless shown extreme concern with prospects of the rise of sentiments calling for union between the two Azerbaijans.||”|
Iranian Azerbaijan has seen some anti-government protests by Iranian Azerbaijanis in recent years, most notably in 2003, 2006, and 2007. In cities across northern Iran in mid-February 2007, tens of thousands of ethnic Azerbaijanis marched in observance of International Mother Language Day, although it's been said that the subtext was a protest against what the marchers perceive to be "the systematic, state-sponsored suppression of their heritage and language".
While Iranian Azerbaijanis may seek greater cultural rights, few Iranian Azerbaijanis display separatist tendencies. Extensive reporting by Afshin Molavi, an Iranian Azerbaijani scholar, in the three major Azerbaijani provinces of Iran, as well as among Iranian Azerbaijanis in Tehran, found that irredentist or unificationist sentiment was not widely held among Iranian Azerbaijanis. Few people framed their genuine political, social and economic frustration – feelings that are shared by the majority of Iranians – within an ethnic context.
According to another Iranian Azerbaijani scholar Dr. Hassan Javadi – a Tabriz-born, Cambridge-educated scholar of Azerbaijani literature and professor of Persian, Azerbaijani and English literature at George Washington University – Iranian Azeris have more important matters on their mind than cultural rights. "Iran’s Azeri community, like the rest of the country, is engaged in the movement for reform and democracy," Javadi told the Central Asia Caucasus Institute crowd, adding that separatist groups represent "fringe thinking." He also told EurasiaNet: "I get no sense that these cultural issues outweigh national ones, nor do I have any sense that there is widespread talk of secession."
- Azerbaijan (Iran)
- List of Azerbaijanis
- Persian people
- Azerbaijani people
- Iranian origin of the Azerbaijanis
- Demographics of Iran
Notes and references
||Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (July 2010)|
- "Iran: People", CIA: The World Factbook
- Soviet Asian ethnic frontiers
- Iran: political development in a changing society Page 160
- World Regional Geography Page 200
- "Richard Nelson Frye, "Persia", Allen & Unwin, 1968. pp 17: "in World War II, contact with brethren in Soviet Azerbaijan likewise were not overly cordial since the Persian Azeris are commited [sic?] to Iranian culture and consider their destiny to be with the Persians rather than with other Turks"
- Tadeusz Swietochowski, "Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920: The Shaping of a National Identity in a Muslim Community", Cambridge University Press, 2004. pg 192:  Excerpt ".. identity with the Persian Azerbaijanis"
- Iran Country Study Guide Volume 78 of World Country Study Guide Series, Authors IBP USA, USA International Business Publications, Editor IBP USA, Publisher Int'l Business Publications, 2005, ISBN 0-7397-1476-7, ISBN 978-0-7397-1476-8, Length 348 pages
- Iran A Country Study, Author Federal Research Division, Edition reprint, Publisher Kessinger Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1-4191-2670-9, ISBN 978-1-4191-2670-3, Length 340 pages
- Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: S-Z Volume 4 of Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups Around the World, James Minahan, ISBN 0-313-31617-1, ISBN 978-0-313-31617-3, Author James Minahan, Publisher Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, ISBN 0-313-32384-4, ISBN 978-0-313-32384-3, Length 2241 pages
- Library of Congress, "Country Studies"- Iran: Azarbaijanis  accessed March 2011.
- THE TURKISH LANGUAGE IN IRAN By Ahmed KASRAVI,latimeria: Prof. Dr. Evan Siegal, Journal of Azerbaijani Studies, 1998, Vol. 1, No 2,  , Khazar University Press , ISSN 1027-387
- De Planhol, X. (2005), “Lands of Iran” in Encyclopaedia Iranica.
- R. N. Frye: Encyclopaedia Iranica, May 2, 2006
- Olivier Roy. “The new Central Asia”, I.B. Tauris, 2007.Pg 7
- "“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. http://gumilevica.kulichki.com/HE2/he2510.htm )".
- "Ancient Persia", Encyclopedia Americana (retrieved 8 June 2006).
- (Al Mas'udi, Kitab al-Tanbih wa-l-Ishraf, De Goeje, M.J. (ed.), Leiden, Brill, 1894, pp. 77–8)
- "Azerbaijan", Columbia Encyclopedia (retrieved 8 June 2006).
- "Various Fire-Temples", University of Calgary (retrieved 8 June 2006).
- Al-Muqaddasi, Ahsan al-Taqāsīm, p. 259 & 378, "... the Azerbaijani language is not pretty [...] but their Persian is intelligible, and in articulation it is very similar to the Persian of Khorasan ...", 10th century, Persia (retrieved 18 June 2006).
- "Tabriz" (retrieved 8 June 2006).
- "Report for Talysh", Ethnologue (retrieved 8 June 2006).
- "Report for Tats", Ethnologue (retrieved 8 June 2006).
- Touraj Atabaki, “Recasting Oneself, Rejecting the Other: Pan-Turkism and Iranian Nationalism” in Van Schendel, Willem(Editor). Identity Politics in Central Asia and the Muslim World: Nationalism, Ethnicity and Labour in the Twentieth Century. London, GBR: I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited, 2001. Actual Quote:
As far as Iran is concerned, it is widely argued that Iranian nationalism was born as a state ideology in the Reza Shah era, based on philological nationalism and as a result of his innovative success in creating a modern nation-state in Iran. However, what is often neglected is that Iranian nationalism has its roots in the political upheavals of the nineteenth century and the disintegration immediately following the Constitutional revolution of 1905– 9. It was during this period that Iranism gradually took shape as a defensive discourse for constructing a bounded territorial entity – the ‘pure Iran’ standing against all others. Consequently, over time there emerged among the country’s intelligentsia a political xenophobia which contributed to the formation of Iranian defensive nationalism. It is noteworthy that, contrary to what one might expect, many of the leading agents of the construction of an Iranian bounded territorial entity came from non Persian-speaking ethnic minorities, and the foremost were the Azerbaijanis, rather than the nation’s titular ethnic group, the Persians.
In the middle of April 1918, the Ottoman army invaded Azerbaijan for the second time.
Contrary to their expectations, however, the Ottomans did not achieve impressive success in Azerbaijan. Although the province remained under quasi-occupation by Ottoman troops for months, attempting to win endorsement for pan-Turkism ended in failure.
...The most important political development affecting the Middle East at the beginning of the twentieth century was the collapse of the Ottoman and the Russian empires. The idea of a greater homeland for all Turks was propagated by pan-Turkism, which was adopted almost at once as a main ideological pillar by the Committee of Union and Progress and somewhat later by other political caucuses in what remained of the Ottoman Empire. On the eve of World War I, pan-Turkist propaganda focused chiefly on the Turkic-speaking peoples of the southern Caucasus, in Iranian Azerbaijan and Turkistan in Central Asia, with the ultimate purpose of persuading them all to secede from the larger political entities to which they belonged and to join the new pan-Turkic homeland. Interestingly, it was this latter appeal to Iranian Azerbaijanis which, contrary to pan-Turkist intentions, caused a small group of Azerbaijani intellectuals to become the most vociferous advocates of Iran’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. If in Europe ‘romantic nationalism responded to the damage likely to be caused by modernism by providing a new and larger sense of belonging, an all-encompassing totality, which brought about new social ties, identity and meaning, and a new sense of history from one’s origin on to an illustrious future’,(42) in Iran after the Constitutional movement romantic nationalism was adopted by the Azerbaijani Democrats as a reaction to the irredentist policies threatening the country’s territorial integrity. In their view, assuring territorial integrity was a necessary first step on the road to establishing the rule of law in society and a competent modern state which would safeguard collective as well as individual rights. It was within this context that their political loyalty outweighed their other ethnic or regional affinities. The failure of the Democrats in the arena of Iranian politics after the Constitutional movement and the start of modern state-building paved the way for the emergence of the titular ethnic group’s cultural nationalism. Whereas the adoption of integrationist policies preserved Iran’s geographic integrity and provided the majority of Iranians with a secure and firm national identity, the blatant ignoring of other demands of the Constitutional movement, such as the call for formation of society based on law and order, left the country still searching for a political identity.
- Thomas De Waal, "The Caucasus: an introduction", Oxford University Press US, 2010. pp 87: "Soviet troops moved into Iranian, and a shored lived "Azerbaijan People's Government in Iran," led by the Iranian Azerbaijani Communist Ja'far Pishevari, was set up in Tabriz in 1945-46. But the Soviet-backed puppet state collapsed in 1946 after Soviet forces withdrew, again under Western pressure.
- Cold War International History Project-Collection- 1945-46 Iranian Crisis. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=1409&fuseaction=va2.browse&sort=Collection&item=1945%2D46%20Iranian%20Crisis
- “As it turned out, the Soviets had to recognize that their ideas on Iran were premature. The issue of Iranian Azerbaijan became one of the opening skirmishes of the Cold War, and, largely under the Western powers' pressure, Soviet forces withdrew in 1946. The autonomous republic collapsed soon afterward, and the members of the Democratic Party took refuge in the Soviet Union, fleeing Iranian revenge.. In Tabriz, the crowds that had just recently applauded the autonomous republic were now greeting the returning Iranian troops, and Azerbaijani students publicly burned their native-language textbooks. The mass of the population was obviously not ready even for a regional self-government so long as it smacked of separatism”. (Swietochowski, Tadeusz 1989. "Islam and the Growth of National Identity in Soviet Azerbaijan", Kappeler, Andreas, Gerhard Simon, Georg Brunner eds. Muslim Communities Reemerge: Historical Perspective on Nationality, Politics, and Opposition in the Former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 46-60.)
- "Shi'ite Leadership: In the Shadow of Conflicting Ideologies", by David Menashri, Iranian Studies, 13:1–4 (1980) (retrieved 10 June 2006).
- Higgins, Patricia J. (1984) "Minority-State Relations in Contemporary Iran" Iranian Studies 17(1): pp. 37–71, p. 59
- Binder, Leonard (1962) Iran: Political Development in a Changing Society University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif., pp. 160–161, OCLC 408909
- Professor Svante Cornell – PDF
- For more information see: Ali Morshedizad,Roshanfekrane Azari va Hoviyate Melli va Ghomi (Azeri Intellectuals and Their Attitude to National and Ethnic Identity (Tehran: Nashr-e Markaz publishing co., 1380)
- Annika Rabo, Bo Utas, “The role of the state in West Asia”, Swedish Research institute in Istanbul , 2005. pg 156. Excerpt:"There is in fact, a considerable publication (book, newspaper, etc.) taking place in the two largest minority languages in the Azerbaijani language and Kurdish, and in the academic year 2004–05 B.A. programmes in the Azerbaijani language and literature (in Tabriz) and in the Kurdish language and literature (in Sanandaj) are offered in Iran for the very first time"
- Iran– Constitution
- (Nikki R. Keddie, "Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution", Yale University Press; Updated edition (August 1, 2006) page 313)
- "Ethnic Tensions Over Cartoon Set Off Riots in Northwest Iran" – The New York Times (retrieved 12 June 2006)
- "Iran Azeris protest over cartoon" – BBC (retrieved 12 June 2006)
- "Cockroach Cartoonist Jailed In Iran" – The Comics Reporter, May 24, 2006 (retrieved 15 June 2006)
- "Iranian paper banned over cartoon" – BBC News, May 23, 2006 (retrieved 15 June 2006)
- Burke, Andrew. Iran. Lonely Planet, Nov 1, 2004, pp 42–43. 1740594258
- Bulent Gokay, The Politics of Caspian Oil, Palgrave Macmillan, 2001, pg 30
- Richard Thomas, Roger East, Alan John Day,Political and Economic Dictionary of Eastern Europe , Routledge, 2002, pg 41
- Michael P. Croissant, "The Armenia–Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications" , Praeger/Greenwood, 1998, pg 61
- Karl Rahder. The Southern Azerbaijan problem, ISN Security Watch, 19/04/07