Iranian Azerbaijanis

آذربایجانیان ایرانی

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Updated:Monday 13th October 2014

Iranian Azerbaijanis Definition

(Wikipedia) - Iranian Azerbaijanis This article is about Iranian Azerbaijanis. For Azerbaijanis in general, see Azerbaijani people. Iranian Azerbaijanis ایران آذربایجانلیلاری İran Azərbaycanlıları آذری‌های ایرانی Total population Regions with significant populations Languages Religion Related ethnic groups
Ismail I Jahan Shah Qovsi Tabrizi Naser al-Din Shah Qajar Farah Pahlavi
Pishevari Ali Javan Khamenei Bazargan Sattar Khan
Shahriar Behrangi Deghati Shariatmadari Tabatabaei
Googosh Mousavi Ali Daei Hadi Saei Vossoughi
 Iran: 12–15 million 18–25 million Approximately 16% of Iran''s population Approximately 16% of Iran''s population Approximately 17% of Iran''s population Approximately 21.6% of Iran''s population Iranian Azerbaijanis diaspora  Turkeya: 530,000  Azerbaijan: 248,000  Canada: 50,000 - 60,000  United States: 40,400  Germany: Unknown  France: Unknown  United Kingdom: Unknown
Azerbaijani Persian as second language
Predominately Shi''a Islam; Minorities practice Sunni Islam, Yarisan, Bahai, and Zoroastrianism
Turkic peoples (Oghuz Turks), Persians
Azerbaijani people Culture By country or region Religion Language Persecution
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Iranian Azerbaijanis (Azerbaijani: ایران آذربایجانلیلاری – İran azərbaycanlıları) also known as Iranian Azeris, Iranian Turks, Azeri Turks or Persian Azerbaijanis, are Iranians of Azerbaijani ethnicity. Iranian Azerbaijanis are mainly found in the Azerbaijan region included (East Azerbaijan, Ardabil, Zanjan, West Azerbaijan) and in smaller numbers, in other provinces such as Kurdistan, Qazvin, Hamadan, Gilan, Markazi and Kermanshah. Iranian Azerbaijanis also constitute a significant minority in Tehran, Karaj and other regions.

  • 1 Demographics
  • 2 Background
    • 2.1 Origins
  • 3 History
    • 3.1 The founding of modern Iran by Ismail I
    • 3.2 Russo-Persian War (1826–28)
    • 3.3 Persian Constitutional Revolution of early twentieth century
    • 3.4 Role of Iranian Azerbaijani intellectuals in modern Iranian ultra-nationalism
    • 3.5 Pan-Turkism
    • 3.6 WWII and Soviet intervention
    • 3.7 Iranian Azerbaijani migration to Azerbaijan
    • 3.8 Islamic republic era and today
  • 4 Ethnic status in Iran
  • 5 Culture
    • 5.1 Literature
      • 5.1.1 Music
    • 5.2 Art
      • 5.2.1 Carpet weaving
    • 5.3 Religion
  • 6 Notable people
  • 7 See also
  • 8 Notes and references


Apart from Iranian Azerbaijan (provinces of West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan, Ardabil and Zanjan), indigenous Azerbaijani population is found in large numbers in four provinces: Hamadan (12% Azerbaijani, as well as closely related groups such as Afshar, Gharehgozloo, Shahsevan, and Baharloo), Qazvin (22.2% Azerbaijani), Markazi (20.8% Azerbaijani) and Kurdistan. Azerbaijani-populated parts of Markazi include Komijan, Khondab, Saveh, Zarandieh, Shazand, and Farahan. In Kurdistan, Azerbaijanis are mainly found in villages around Qorveh.

Azerbaijanis have also immigrated and resettled in large numbers in Central Iran, mainly Tehran, where they constitute 25% — one-third of the population, Qum (25.8% to 26.6% Azerbaijani) and Karaj (34.2% to 36.1% Azerbaijani) Immigrant Azerbaijani communities have been represented by people prominent not only among urban and industrial working classes but also in commercial, administrative, political, religious, and intellectual circles.

Azerbaijani-speaking clans ethnically close to Azerbaijanis, including the Shahsevan, the Bayat and the Gharagozloo, are the indigenous population of Central Iran.

Background Origins Main articles: Caucasian origin of the Azerbaijanis and Iranian origin of the Azerbaijanis

The latest comparative study 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 (Persians, Armenians, etc.)

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 thirteenth 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 Iranian 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.

History The founding of modern Iran by Ismail I Russo-Persian War (1826–28)

The burden of the Russo-Persian War (1826–28) was on the tribes of Qaradağ region, who being in front line, provided human resources and provision of Iranian army. In the wake of the war a significant fraction of the inhabitants of this area lived as nomadic tribes (ایلات). The major tribes included; Cilibyanlu 1500 tents and houses, Karacurlu 2500, Haji Alilu 800, Begdillu 200, and various minor groups 500. At the time Ahar, with 3500 inhabitants, was the only city of Qaradağ. The Haji-Alilu tribe played major rule in the later political developments.

Persian Constitutional Revolution of early twentieth century

During the Persian Constitutional Revolution Tabriz was the epicenter of battles which followed the ascent to throne of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar in 8 January 1907. The revolutionary forces were headed by Sattar Khan who was originally from Qaradağ. On the other hand, the defiant king was counting on the military might of Rahimkhan Chalabianloo, the chief of Chalabianloo Tribe. Haydar Khan e Amo-oghli had significant contribution in the inception and progression of the revolution, and introducing leftist ideas into Iranian mainstream politics. During the following tumultuous years, Amir Arshad, the headman of Haji-Alilu tribe, had major impact on the subsequent political developments in Iran in relation to the status of Iranian Kurds. He is credited with fending off the communism from Iran.

Role of Iranian Azerbaijani intellectuals in modern Iranian ultra-nationalism

The ill-fated Constitutional Revolution did not bring democracy to Iran. Instead, Rezā Shāh deposed Ahmad Shah Qajar, the last Shah of the Qajar dynasty, and founded the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925 and established a despotic monarchy. His insistence on ethnic nationalism and cultural unitarism along with forced detribalization and sedentarization resulted in suppression of several ethnic and social groups, including Azerbaijanis. Ironically, the main architect of this totalitarian policy, which was justified by reference to racial ultra-nationalism, was Mirza Fatali Akhundov, an intellectual from Azerbaijan. In accordance with the Orientalist views of the supremacy of the Aryan peoples, he idealized pre-Islamic Achaemenid and Sassanid empires, whilst negating the ''Islamization'' of Persia by Muslim forces." This idealization of a distant past was put into practice by both the Pahlavi kings, particularly Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who honored himself with the title Āryāmehr, Light of the Aryans. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in an interview concisely expressed his views by declaring, "we Iranians are Aryans, and the fact that we are not adjacent to other Aryan nations in Europe is just a geographical anomaly.".

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 Farsi language, which included articles emphasizing the racial unity of Germans and Iranians. Ahmad Kasravi, Taqi Arani, Hossein Kazemzadeh (Iranshahr)and Mahmood Afshar advocated the suppression of Azerbaijani language as they supposed that the multilingualism contradicted the racial purity of Iranians. Therefore, 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.

Pan-Turkism Main article: Pan-Turkism

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. 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 late 1941 Soviet forces invaded Iran in coordination with British Army under an operation known as Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. Their forces broke through the border and moved from the Azerbaijan SSR into Iranian Azerbaijan. Reza Shah was forced by the invading British to abdicate in favor of his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who replaced his father as Shah on the throne on 16 September 1941. At the aftermath of a four year long tumultuous period Azerbaijan People''s Government was established in Tabriz,perhaps through direct involvement of the Soviet leadership. This government autonomously ruled the province from November 1945 to November 1946 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 Azerbaijan People''s Government.

Iranian Azerbaijani migration to Azerbaijan

Beginning in the 1850s, many Iranian Azerbaijanis opted to become work migrants and seek job opportunities in the Russian Empire, primarily in the economically booming Azerbaijani-populated part of the Caucasus. Due to them being Persian subjects, Russian offices often recorded them as "Persians". The migrants referred to themselves as hamshahri ("compatriot") as an in-group identity. The word was adopted by the Azerbaijani-speaking locals as həmşəri and has since been applied by them to Iranian Azerbaijani migrants in general. Already in the nineteenth century, the word also spread to urban varieties of Russian of Baku and Tiflis in the form of gamshara (гамшара) or amshara (амшара), where it was, however, used with a negative connotation to mean "a raggamuffin". In the Soviet times, the word was borrowed into the Russian slang of Ashkhabad and was used to refer to forestallers.

Iranian Azerbaijanis often worked menial jobs, including on dyer''s madder plantations in Guba where 9,000 out of 14,000 Iranian Azerbaijani contract workers were employed as of 1867. In the 1886 economic report on the life of the peasantry of the Guba district, Yagodynsky reported frequent cases of intermarriage between the Iranian work migrants and local women which prompted the former to settle in villages near Guba and quickly assimilate. Children from such families would not be regarded as different from the others by the residents of the community.

Starting from the late nineteenth century, Baku was another popular destination for Iranian Azerbaijanis, thanks to its highly developing oil industry. By the beginning of the twentieth century, they already constituted 50% of all the oil workers on Baku, and numbered 9,426 people in 1897, 11,132 people in 1903 and 25,096 people in 1913. Amo-oghli and Sattar Khan notably worked in the Baku oil fields before returning to Iran and engaging in politics.

In 1925, there were 45,028 Iranian-born Azerbaijanis in the Azerbaijan SSR. Of those, 15,000 (mostly oil workers, port and navy workers and railway workers) had retained Iranian citizenship by 1938 and were concentrated in Baku and Ganja. In accordance with the 1938 decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, residents of Azerbaijan with Iranian citizenship were given 10 days to apply for Soviet citizenship and were then relocated to Kazakhstan. Those who refused (numbering 2,878 people) became subject to deportation back to Iran immediately. Some naturalized Iranian Azerbaijanis were later accused of various anti-Soviet activities and arrested or even executed in the so-called "Iranian operation" of 1938.

After the fall of the democratic government in Tabriz in 1946, as many as 10,000 Iranian Azerbaijani political émigrés relocated to Soviet Azerbaijan, fleeing the inevitable repressions of the Shah''s government. Notable Azerbaijanis of Iranian descent living in Azerbaijan included writers Mirza Ibrahimov and Mir Jalal Pashayev, singers Rubaba Muradova and Fatma Mukhtarova, actress Munavvar Kalantarli, poets Madina Gulgun and Balash Azeroghlu and others.

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, Mehdi Bazargan, Sadeq Khalkhali, and Ali Khamenei.

Azerbaijanis make up 25% of Tehran''s population and 30.3% – 33% of the population of the Tehran Province. Azerbaijanis in Tehran live in all of the cities Tehran Province. They are the largest ethnic groups after Persians in Tehran and the Tehran Province.

Ethnic status in Iran Main article: Ethnic minorities in IranSattar Khan, Iranian Azerbaijani, was a key figure in the Iranian Constitutional Revolution and is held in great esteem by many Iranians.

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.

Major Ethnic Groups of Iran

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.

Despite sporadic problems, Azerbaijanis are an intrinsic community within Iran. Currently, the living conditions of Azerbaijanis in Iran closely resemble that of Persians:

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 Azerbaijanis 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."

Culture Literature

Jahan Shah (r. 1438-67), the Qara Qoyunlu (“black sheep”) ruler of Azerbaijan was a master poet. He compiled a diwan under the pen-name Haqiqi. Shah Isma''il (1487-1524), who used the pen-name Khata''i, was a prominent ruler-poet and has, apart from his diwan comiled a mathnawi called Deh-name, consisting of some eulogies of Ali, the fourth Caliph of early Islam. After the Safavid era, Azerbaijani Turkish could not sustain its early development. The main theme of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the development of verse-folk stories, mainly intended for performance by Ashughs in weddings. The most famous among these literary works are Koroghlu, Ashiq Qərib, and Kərəm ile Əslı.

Following the establishing of Qajar dynasty in Iran Azerbaijani literature flourished and reached its peak by the end of the nineteenth century. By then, journalism had been launched in Azerbaijani language and social activism had become the main theme of literary works. The most influential writers of this era are Fathali Akhondzadeh and Mojez Shabestari.

Pahlavi era was the darkest period for Azerbaijani literature. The education and publication in Azerbaijani language was banned and writers of Azerbaijan, such as Gholam-Hossein Saedi, Samad Behrangi and Reza Barahani, published their works in Farsi language. The only exception was Mohammad-Hossein Shahriar, who is famous for his verse book, Heydar Babaya Salam; simply he was too mighty to be censored. Shahriar''s work was an innovative way of summarizing the Cultural identity in concise poetic form and was adapted by a generation of lesser known poets, particularly from Qareh Dagh region, to record their oral traditions. One remarkable example is Abbas Eslami, known with his pen-name Barez, (1932-2011) who described the melancholic demise of his homeland in a book titled mourning Sabalan. Another example is Mohamad Golmohamadi''s long poem, titled I am madly in love with Qareh Dagh (قاراداغ اؤلکه‌سینین گؤر نئجه دیوانه‌سی ام), is a concise description of the region''s cultural landscape.

The long lasting suppression finally led to a generation of revolutionary poets, composing verses by allegoric allusion to imposing landscape of Azerbaijan:

Sahand, o mountain of pure snow, Descended from Heaven with Zoroaster Fire in your heart, snow on your shoulders, with storm of centuries, And white hair of history on your chest ...

Yadollah Maftun Amini (born in 1926)

After the Islamic revolution of 1979 the ban on Azerbaijani Turkish publications in Iran has eased. However, great literary works have not yet appeared and glory days of fifteenth century ruler-poets is not on the horizon. The contemporary literature is restricted to oral traditions, such as bayaties.

MusicAn Ashugh performance

The autocratic nation building policies of Pahlavi era has succeeded in cultural assimilation in the favor of a government sanctioned culture. As a result, by the turn of twentieth century the genuine Azerbaijani music had been preserved in remote corners of Azerbaijan. Thanks to the more liberal policies of Khatami era (1998-2006) a cultural renaissance took place and Azerbaijani music was brought in the spotlight.

The traditional Azerbaijani music can be classified into two categories: the music of "ashugh" and the "mugham". Mugham, despite its similarity to Persian classic music and utmost importance in Azerbaijan republic, has not been popular among Iranian Azerbaijanis. The ashugh music had survived in mountainous region of Qaradağ and presently is identified as the representative of the cultural identity of Azerbaijanis. Recent innovative developments, aiming to enhance the urban-appealing aspects of this ashugh performances, has drastically enhanced the status of ashugh music. The opening of academic style music classes in Tabriz by master Ashugs, such as Aşiq Imran Heydəri and Aşiq Çəngiz Mehdipor, has greatly contributed to the ongoing image building.

Ashugs were, originally, travelling bards who sang and played saz, an eight or ten string plucking instrument in the form of a long necked lute. Their roots can be traced back to at least the seventh century according to the Turkic epic Dede Korkut. The music was evolved to its contemporary characteristic aspect, which is frequent allusions to a mountainous landscape with the intention of arousing an emotional state with a tone of mild melancholy in a listener. The first verses of an Ashug song, composed by Məhəmməd Araz, may well represent this aspect:

Bəlkə bu yerlərə birdə gəlmədim (I may not revisit this site anymore)

duman səlamət qal dağ səlamət qal (Farewell to the Mist and to the mountain)

arxamca su səpir göydə bulutlar (Clouds sprinkle drops of rain)

leysan səlamət qal yağ səlamət qal (Farewell to summer days, farewell to the rain)


Living in cross-road of many civilizations, Azerbaijanis artisans have developed a rich tradition of decorative arts including rugs, lace, printed textiles, jewelry, vessels made of copper, engraved metals, wooden articles and ceramics. Among these, carpet weaving stands out as the acme of Azerbaijani art.

Carpet weaving

Tabriz is one of the main centers of carpet weaving in Iran. At present 40% of Iranian carpet exports are originated from Tabriz. These carpets are generally known as Tabriz rugs. Another carpet weaving center is Ardebil, which, despite being overshadowed by Tabriz in recent years, has produced the finest carpets in past. Two most famous Iranian rugs in the world had been woven in Ardebil in 1540. One is hung in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the other is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts. These carpets have silk warps and contain over thirty million knots.

The acme of carpet weaving art is manifested in Verni, which was originated in Nagorno-Karabakh. Verni is a carpet-like kilim with a delicate and fine warp and woof, which is woven without a previous sketch, thanks to the creative talents of nomadic women and girls. Verni weavers employ the image of birds and animals (deer, rooster, cat, snake, birds, gazelle, sheep, camel, wolf and eagle) in simple geometrical shapes, imitating the earthenware patterns that were popular in prehistoric times. A key décor feature, which is intrinsic to many Vernis, is the S-element. Its shape varies, it may resemble both figure 5 and letter S. This element means “dragon” among the nomads. At present, Verni is woven by the girls of Arasbaran Tribes, often in the same room where the nomadic tribes reside, and is a significant income source for about 20000 families in Qaradagh region. Verni weavers employ the image of birds and animals in simple geometrical shapes, imitating the earthenware patterns that were popular in prehistoric times.

  • Ardebil Carpet

  • Tabriz Carpet.

  • Haris Carpet

  • Qaradagh Carpet

  • Vern.


The majority of Azerbaijani''s are followers of Shia Islam. Azerbaijanis commemorate Shia holy days (ten first days of the holy month of Muharram) at least with the same intensity as other Iranians. In metropolitan cities with mixed ethnic composition, such as Tehran, Azerbaijanis are thought to be more intense in their expression of religious ritual than their Persian counterparts. However, Azerbaijanis are less inclined to Islamism. This is evidenced by the fact that just before revolution Azerbaijanis followed either Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari or Kho''i, both traditionalist jurists. In contrast, Persians followed more radical Ruhollah Khomeini.

Followers of Yarisan religion (Goran in Azerbaijani language) constitute a significant fraction of the population. In some regions Yarisan followers are sometimes known as Shamlus, a clear reference to the name of Shamlu tribe, which was one of the main constituents of Qizilbash confederation.

Notable people Main article: List of Iranian Azerbaijanis

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