Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
of Azari and Arrani Peoples and Pan-Turkism
: Mohammad Taghi Sabokdel
Iran Mehr, Monthly Magazine, Jan 2004
speaking areas (Click to enlarge)
Profound historical ties that date back to the ancient times have
linked Azerbaijan with other parts of Iran so strongly that they cannot be
taken apart. The Turkish language was imposed on people of Azerbaijan
since a couple of centuries ago and before that they spoke Persian. Homam-e
Tabrizi, the renowned poet of Azerbaijan who lived in the 14th century has written many poems in
Modern Azari Turkish is
also very different from other Turkic languages such as Islambouli. All
these prove the difference Azari tribes have with other Turkish speaking
The name of Azarbaijan has been one of the most renowned geographical
names of Iran since 2000 years ago. Azar is a New-Persian word derivative
from Middle-Persian (Pahlavi) "Athur, Adur"
which means fire.
inscriptions, the the region located south of Aras river has been recorded
as 'Athurpatekan', while it has been mentioned Azarbayegan and Azarpadegan
in Persian writings. It is Azarabadegan in Shahnameh and Arabs knew it as
Azarbijan or Adharbijan.
With regard to the emergence of Azarbaijan, the writing by Strabo, the
famous Greek geographer seems to be the most important of all writings.
When the reign of Achaemenid dynasty came to an end, Alexander from
Macedonia conquered Iran. A Persian Satrap called Athurpat rose in Azarbayegan and
prevented that land, which was part of the Median dynastic empire and was known as
'Lesser Mede' to be captures by Greek invaders. The land was thereafter
Ahmad Kasravi, an Azari pundit, opined that Oturpat was made up of Otur,
meaning Azar or fire and Pat, which was later corroded to Paad and Baad,
which meant guard.
In June 1918, the leaders of Mosavat (equality) Party, established a
government in Caucasus and renamed the former Iranian province of Arran to
Azerbaijan following suit with
policies of Turks. At that time, the naming gave rise to controversies and
some even went as far as announcing that, "As if Azerbaijan is a
land, which has been divided in two parts; one part lying to the north of
Aras river and the other part lying to the south."
The disputes became so hectic that Azarbayegan proper was called 'Southern
Azerbaijan' while Arran and Shiravan were called northern Azerbaijan to
deceive the Iranian youth.
Mosavat Party whose real name was 'Mosavat Islamic Democratic Party' was
established in 1911 in Baku with the goal of unifying Turks in Asia Minor.
Mosavat Party followed the policies of Pan-Turkism and advocated unity of
all Turkic-speaking people.
2. Language of Azari people
also: Ancient Azari
The ancient language spoken in Azerbaijan was one of the dialects of the Persian
language, which was known to us as Azari tongue.
Ahamd Kasravi has proven that based on evidence, the local language of Azari
people; at least, to the end of Mogul era (mid-14th century) has been Azari. After that, during a 150-year interval from
the time that Chengiz dynasty became defunct since establishment of
Safavids, the Azari language was gradually replaced by Turkish dialect.
During recent year, Manouchehr Mortazavi, in an article on the ancient
language of Azerbaijan, had opined that Azari has been the language of
Azerbaijan people and it has included various dialects.
However, since there has been a discrepancy with regard to the original
language of Azerbaijanis, the compendium of research results is as
Ibn al-Nadim writes in his book al-Fihrist that the language of Iranian
people could be divided in five classes including Pahlavi, Dari, Persian,
Khuzi (ancient language of people in Khuzestan) and Soriani. Relying on what Ibn
Muqaffa' said, he opined that Dari was the language of courtiers while Persian
was the language of priests and scientists and the language of
people of Fars; Khuzi was the language that kings and dignitaries used in
their intimate talks. Soriani was the language of people of Iraq while
Pahlavi was spoken by people of Isfahan, Rey, Hamedan, Mah (Mede),
Nahavand and Azerbaijan.
Out of the above-mentioned languages, only two languages, including Dari,
spoken in eastern Iran including Khorassan, and Pahlavi that was spoken by
people in Isfahan, Rey, Hamedan, Nahavand and Azerbaijan are of concern
The authors belonging to the 8th century CE have called the
language of people of Azerbaijan as 'Azari Pahlavi' and sometimes 'Azari'
and maintained that the said language was different from the language
spoken in east Iran.
However, the difference was not so big as to make them incapable of
comprehending what other peoples said. Nasser Khosrow in his itinerary
says, "I arrived in Tabriz in 1046.... I saw a poet in Tabriz
named Ghetran. He was a good poet, but could not speak Persian correctly.
He came to me with poetry books of Manjik and Daqiqi and asked any word
that he could not understand..."
I presume that Nasser Khosrow meant Dari Persian which was known to him
but some of whose words were not known to Khorassani poet. Marquat??, the
famous Iranian scholar has written that, "Pahlavi language is, in
fact, the same as Azari language."
Yagoubi who lived in the 10th century in his book, al-Boldan, he says
the language of Azari people was "Azari Pahlavi".
Abu Abdollah Bashari Moqaddasi in his book divides Iran into eight
climatic regions noting, "The language of these regions is Persian;
however, some of them speak Dari and some complicated; and all those
dialects are called Persian."
According to Masoudi, Pahlavi, Dari and Azari were of the same origin and
combination of their works was the same and all of them were considered
among Persian dialects.
Abu Abdollah Mohammad ibn Ahmad Kharazmi, who lived in the 11th century, attributes Persian language to people of Fars and the language of
priests and believes that Dari was the language of courtiers. With regard
to Pahlavi language, he writes:
"Pahlavi is one of the Iranian languages used by kings. The work has
been attributed to Pahlev, which encompasses five lands: Isfahan, Rey,
Hamedan, Nahavand and Azerbaijan."
Estakhri says in his book, al-Masalek and al-Mamalek that the language of
people of Azerbaijan is Arabic and Persian. Despite its tremendous pressure, Arabic could not overwhelm
Persian and was rejected first in Khorassan and then in other parts of
Eranski, The famous Russian scholar writes: "After pushing Arabic
back in Khorrasan and other regions, Persian did the same in other
Two factors were influential in this regard. Firstly, Arabs were
controlling a wide empire from Sir Darya River to Spain and their
dominance in Iran was not so much as to be able to overwhelm the Iranian
element. Secondly, the conflict between Iranians and Arabs, especially in
political, military and literary fields was intense.
According to Ibn Hauqal, "The language of people of Azerbaijan and most
people of Arminiyeh is Persian and Arabic if rife too. There are few
merchants and landlords that speak Persian and who don't know
Two points are worthy of mention: Firstly, the language of Azerbaijan
people was Persian. Secondly, Arabic was not common among villages and lay
people and only part of people knew it.
Ibn Hauqal says the languages spoken by people of Armenia and Aran were
part of Persian. He writes, "Some tribes from Armenia and the like
speak languages that are like Armenian. The same is true about people in
Dabil and Nahvi (Nakhichevan). The language of Barza'eh people is Arani
and the mountain known as Caucasus is theirs around which heathens with
various languages live."
Yaghout Hemavi, who lived in the sixth and seventh century A.H., says with
regard to the language of Azaris, "They speak a language called Azari
and nobody can understand it but themselves."
There were many dialects in Persia that were not intelligible to anybody
but those who spoke them. One of them was the dialect of Talesh people in
Gilan, which is unintelligible to people from other regions.
Hamdollah Mostofi, who lived in the seventh and eighth centuries A.H.,
refers to language of people of Maragheh and writes, "Their language
is altered Pahlavi."
With regard to people of Talesh and their language, he writes,
"People there are white and follow the religion of Imam Shafei. Their
language is Pahlavi with Jilani dialect," he noted.
Homam Tabrizi, the renowned poet of Azerbaijan who lived in the 14th
century has written many poems in Azari Pahlavi.
Ezzoddin Adel ibn Yousof Tabrizi, who lived during 15th century has also written poems in
Azari dialect of Pahlavi.
There is no sign of Turkish words in those poems.
Undoubtedly, the dialect of Azari Pahlavi was spoken in Azerbaijan until
the advent of Safavid period, but it became obsolete in villages and
cities since the middle of the Safavid period and only remained in
After this introduction, it is clear that if some try through
sophistication to prove that Azerbaijan has been inhabited by Turks from
ancient times and it was only afterwards that some Aryans speaking Iranian
languages conquered there accidentally, their claims would be nothing but
Now it has become evident that the Turkish language rife in Azerbaijan,
has been the language of what people from the start and how it has been
imposed on people living there. It is ridiculous that some people consider
it as the mother tongue of Azari people and invite the people to replace
it for the official Persian language. It is obvious that no learned people
will get themselves down to forsake the language of Ferdowsi, Sa'adi,
Mowlavi, Khayyam and Hafiz and trade it for the faulty, backward language that was
brought in by the marauding Turkmen. This is a foreign language that did
not belong to the language of Iranian ancestors and was imposed on them.
Pan-Turkism movements reverberated in Baku since many years ago, or
exactly since 1908, when young Turks seized power in Istanbul. During
those years the putsch carried out by Unity and Progress Committee ended
despotic rule of Sultan Abdolhamid and Turkism tendencies substituted
Islamic school of thought.
The vanguards of Pan-Turkism stemmed from Turks in the Russian
empire that were in turn influenced by Pan-Slavism, which were formed in
Russia during 19th century. In 1904, Yousof Anghchur Oghlu, a Tartar from
Russia, which was later known as Yousof Aghchur, published a treatise
titled, "Three Methods of Politics", which gradually gained
importance as the manifest of Pan-Turkism.
During World War I, a Pan-Turkists activity in Baku, which was dominated by
Tsars of Russia, was limited to publication of periodicals. What is the
main purpose of such periodicals as Yeni Foyouzat (New Bounties) and
Shalaleh that while loyal to Tsars had made refining Turkish language in
Caucasus their main objective and now laud Pan-Turkism and its worse
The theorists of Pan-Turkism believe that all ethnic groups and
nationalities from Eastern Europe to Great Wall of China, which enjoy
language, religious and traditional commonalties are, in fact, a single
nation and should come together as a big nation and fulfill their
historical mission in the face of other big civilizations such as Iranian,
European, Indian and Chinese civilizations. Their views, however,
cannot be supported by scientific realities. Most great nations are made
up of a single dominant race or, at least, ethnic variation of that race.
An example is the United States of America that while not older than two
and a half centuries, is mainly made up of people from Anglo-Saxon or
Germanic stock. In the same way, people in Canada, Australia and New Zealand
mainly hail from north or south European origin.
Pan-Turks claim that all people from beyond the straits to the end of
Central Asia are peoples from a single large nation, which have been
divided due to historical injustice and their historical duty is to come
together under a single flag.
They produce several reasons, the most important of which is the common
language. They claim that all those languages were originally a single
language that was later changed due to unfavorable conditions.
This claim is quite baseless, because those various languages could be
divided in several categories:
1. Tribes known as Turks were serving Iranian Samanid kings in Central Asia during
the 9th and 10th centuries, and then they converted to Islam and began
serving Abbasid caliphs and then established Ghaznavid dynasty and ruled
Afghanistan and half of Iran.
2. Oghuz or Ghoz tribes invaded Iran from Central Asia and in addition go
Ghaznavid, they did away with such Iranian dynasties as Buyids and Ziarids and established Seljuk government, which in addition to the
whole Iranian plateau ruled Asia Minor and Iraq, and the current
day's Syria up to Mediterranean.
3. Mogul tribes, led by Chengiz invaded the whole Iran, Asia Minor and Iraq and established the rule of Mogul
4. Tartar tribes first conquered the northern parts of the Central Asia
and northern coasts of the Caspian Sea and then bolstered their forces
under the command of Timur and attacked Iran, Iraq and Caucasus to
establish Gurkani government.
Therefore, the claims that all the above peoples were of a single origin,
that is the land referred to as mythical Turan, is baseless.
Even today, the difference among the language of those tribes referred to
by Pan-Turks is so wide that Turkmens do not understand the language of
Kyrkyz people and Uzbeks do not comprehend what people of Azerbaijan say.
If such differences did not exit, there is no reason to assume that people
of Azerbaijan are from a single origin with people of Anatolia
because, firstly, Turkish language was imposed on people of Azerbaijan
since a couple of centuries ago and before that they spoke Persian.
Secondly, profound historical ties that date back to the time of Zoroaster
have linked Azerbaijan with other parts of Iran so strongly that they
cannot be taken apart.
History has proven that anytime
hatched a plot to take Azerbaijan away from Iran; the people of Azerbaijan
along with other Iranians have formed the front line of struggle to thwart that plot.
is the Light on the Path to Future"
British Institute of Persian Studies