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Pan-Turanism Takes Aim At Azarbaijan; A Geopolitical Agenda

Part II: Pan-Turanism Calims To Azarbaijan


By: Dr Kaveh Farrokh



Azarbaijanis have always been vigorously active in the political, cultural, linguistic, and commercial domains of Persia . Turkish, spoken by the majority of Iran ’s Azarbaijani populace, is one of the many languages of Iran ’s multi-ethnic populace. Turkish can be heard not only in Tabriz, but in many rural and metropolitan parts of Iran , especially in Tehran .


In my visit to Tehran a few years ago, I recall the cab driver asking me what music I wanted to hear in his car: “Sir are you in the mood for Turkish music?...I also have the latest from Ercan from Istanbul …or are you in the mood for Persian? On that note, how about some Luri or Kurdish?


This tiny example neatly encapsulates what Persia has always been about since its founding by Cyrus the great. Persia is not confined by linear conceptions such as “race”, “language” or even “culture”. An Iranian can just as easily be speaking Arabic in Khuzistan, Baluchi in Zahedan, or Turkish in Maragheh. It is this Persia that certain opportunistic and naïve individuals and organizations believe they can destroy, and the main tool they have been using is “language and cultural rights” (Part VI, item 10). There is a distinction between legitimate rights (e.g. language, cultural expression, theology, etc.) versus entities who deceptively appropriate these “rights” to mask a divisive and potentially violent agenda.


The pan-Turanian theories discussed in Part I represent only a part of the picture. There is a whole set of beliefs being narrated about Iranian Azarbaijan in both the Republic of Azarbaijan and the Turkish Republic . They are using the Turkish language as an instrument to differentiate Iranian Turcophones from the rest of Iran. Some of the pan-Turanian claims to Iranian Azarbaijan can be summarized into the following:


(1) Greater Azarbaijan was divided between Russia and Persia .

(2) Azarbaijanis have spoken Turkish since the advent of History.

(3) Turks have been in the Caucasus for over 5000 Years.

(4) The Safavid Empire was Turkish.

(5) Sattar Khan was a pan-Turanian separatist.

(6) Babak Khorramdin was a Turk who fought against Persia .

(7) Azarbaijanis and all who speak Turkish are Turkish by race.


Before discussing these items, an important point must be revisited. Pan-Turanian claims to Azarbaijan are supported by a very powerful western lobby in the form of multinational and geopolitical petroleum interests. These hope to access and dominate the lucrative oil bonanza looming in the energy deposits of the Caucasus and Central Asia (see Part VI, items 1-3).


(1) Greater Azarbaijan was divided between Russia and Persia .


This is the belief that there was an independent kingdom by the name of “ Azarbaijan ” (encompassing Arran and Iranian Azarbaijan). This “kingdom” is then claimed to have been partitioned between Qajar Iran and Tsarist Russia in the treaties of Golestan (1813) and Turkemenchai (1827); leading to the creation of a Russian occupied North Azarbaijan and Iranian occupied South Azarbaijan . This account is a fictional narrative at best, and a gross distortion of historical events.


(a) Arran & the Historical Azarbaijan . The first recorded reference to Azarbaijan can be traced to Aturpat[i] , the local Iranian commander of the region at the time of Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia in 333 BC. Aturpat is Old Persian for “guardian/keeper” (pat/bad) of the “fire” (Atur)[ii] . The region of Aturpat, was known in Old Persian as Aturpatkan[iii] (“The place of the Guardian/keeper of the fire”). The region was known as such until the Arab conquests of Persia in the 7th century AD[iv] . After the battle of Nahavand, the Arabs broke through the Malayir plains of northwest Iran in 642 AD and into Aturpatkan. The region was henceforth referred to by its Arabic pronunciation, Azarbaijan .


Historical sources have clearly delineated the historical Azarbaijan as having been situated between the Daylamites of Northern Persia to their east, with the Araxes River as its northernmost limit. The region north/northeast of the Araxes River was known as Arran . This region was variously known as Ardan by the Parthians, as well as Alban/Albania as per the Caucasian designation. Armenian historians cite the region north of the Araxes as “Agvan”, “Agvanak”, “Alvan” or “Alvanak”. The region above the Araxes River has never been known as “ Azarbaijan ”. Professors Touraj Atabaki and Jalal Matini (see References) have listed numerous primary historical sources that provide indisputable evidence of the clear delineation between Arran/Albania and the historical Azarbaijan in Iran . A handful of these include: 


Strabo (64/63 BC-23 AD): Cites the people of Iranian Azarbaijan (known as Media Atropatene at the time of Strabo) as Iranians and with Persian as their language[v] . The “Persian” cited by Strabo would have most likely been of the Parthian Pahlavi variety at the time.

Arrian (92-c. 175 AD): The region north of the Araxes River is cited as “ Albania ” and south of the Araxes as “Media Atropatene”.

The Hodud-ol-Alam Text (10th century AD): Cites the Araxes River as the northern limit of Azarbaijan .

Ibn-Hawqal: Cites the Araxes River as the southern limit of Arran .

Al-Muqaddasi (10th Century AD): Divided Persia into eight regions which include both Azarbaijan and Arran . Defines Arran as being situated between the Caspian Sea and the Araxes River . 

Yaqut Al-Hamavi (13th Century AD): Defines Arran and Azarbaijan as distinct territories with the Araxes River forming the boundary between them. Arran defined as north and west of the Araxes , with Azarbaijan to the south of the River.

Borhan-e-Qate (Completed 1632 AD): Aras ( Araxes ) defined as a river flowing past Tbilisi in Georgia and forming the boundary between Arran and Azarbaijan .  


Sassanian emperor, Shapur I (r. 241-270 AD), cited Albania and Media Atropatene as two separate provinces of the Persian Empire . Professor Mark Whittow’s map of Oxford University (see references – see also item 6) clearly shows the historically attested distinction between ancient Arran/Albania and the original Azarbaijan in Iran (see below):






Note how the Araxes River separates Arran from the historical Azarbaijan (in Iran ). It is interesting that virtually no maps such as these are ever discussed by pan-Turanian activists (and their western supporters) seeking to incite anti-Persian sentiments among Iranian Azarbaijanis. Even less acknowledged is the strong Armenian presence in historical Albania/Arran, especially west of the River Kur/Kura. 


(b) The Musavats and the early Pan-Turanianists. The Islamic Democratic Musavat Party (IDMP) was established in the city of Baku in Arran in 1911[vi] . Although nominally a pan-Islamic movement for the Caucasus , the IDMP was in fact a pan-Turanian movement with an Islamic flavour. The IDMP wanted to use Islam to target Turkish speakers of the Caucasus ( Arran in particular) and Azarbaijan in Iran [vii] . In practice, the Musavats catered to the pan-Turanian elements of the Ottoman Empire [viii] who endeavoured to create a Turkish super-state stretching from Central Asia to the Aegean Sea [ix] .


The collapse of the Czarist Russian Empire by 1917 was the catalyst for the breaking away of many of Russia ’s conquests of former Persian territory in the Caucasus . This resulted in the Musavats solidifying their ties to The Turkish Federalist Party in the Ottoman Empire by June 1917[x] . By November 1917, the first Musavat congress was inaugurated in the Caucasus ( Arran ?), after which the party was renamed as the Turkish Democratic Musavat Party (TDMP)[xi] . The full tilt of the Musavat party to pan-Turanianism was now evident.


By April 22, 1918 , a political coalition of Mensheviks (Georgians), Dashnakists (Armenians) and TDMP (Turkish speaking as well some non-Turkish Muslims from the Caucasus ), officially proclaimed the inauguration of the Transcaucasian Federative Republic . However on 26 May 1918 , the Republic was dissolved with the Georgian Mensheviks proclaiming their own republic on the same day, with the Armenian Dashnakists doing the same two days later. The TDMP met on May 27 1918 in Tbilisi and selected the name of “ Azarbaijan ”, rather than Albania or Arran , as the title of their new “Independent Republic of Azerbaijan” (IRA)[xii] . The main proponents of this name change were local Turkish and non-Turkish Muslim elites[xiii] as well as Ottoman pan-Turanian activists[xiv] , many of them Ottoman officers who had recently fought against the Russians in the Caucasus with success[xv] (see photo of Ottoman officers campaigning in the Caucasus in World War One – see Nicolle in references).





It is worth noting that Nuri Pashi, a brother of Enver Pasha, also volunteered and fought against the Imperial Russians in the Caucasus during the First World War.


The main objective of “borrowing” Azarbaijan ’s name and applying it to Arran was to create the illusion of a formerly “united” Azarbaijan that was divided in two by Persia and Russia . As the majority of the inhabitants of Arran and Azarbaijan speak Turkish and have family ties in both regions, the fiction of an “independent state” that was “divided” rapidly gained hold in former Arran .


The pan-Turanian activists first applied the name of Iran ’s Azarbaijan to a former Iranian province ( Arran ) then proposed to annex the real Azarbaijan (in Iran ) into their newly born republic[xvi] . Even more amazing is how quickly the pan-Turanian ideologues of the Musavats began to believe their own propaganda. One example is Nasib Bey Ussubekov (a Musavat activist and one of the leaders of the republic in 1918) who made it clear that he regarded Iranian Azarbaijan as a part of the newly invented “Independent Republic of Azerbaijan”.


Czarist and Soviet Russia did much to advance the cause pan-Turanianism, a fact undoubtedly rejected by pan-Turanian and Russian scholars alike. Despite the fact that the Russians and Turks have fought several long and bloody wars against each other in history, the two powers have at times cooperated against Persia . This is noted by Professor Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh:


“The Russo-Ottoman agreement of 1724…conspired to dismember Iran after the fall of the Safavid Empire, and to divide its territories between the Russian and Ottoman Empires”

[Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh, Small Players of the Great Game, 2004, p.15].


Both powers were forced to evacuate Persia by Nader Shah Afshar (1688-1747) (see photo below – further discussion item 2c).





(c) The Soviet Russians & Joseph Stalin. The Independent Republic of Azerbaijan was dismantled and overthrown by Soviet Russian forces on April 28th, 1920 , immediately after which Arran once again became a part of the Russian empire[xvii] . Interestingly, the Russians decided to retain the pan-Turanian invention for Arran , and began to refer to Arran as “The Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan”.


A quick study of rare historical archives reveals a very cynically self-serving (and an unintentionally pan-Turanian) Russian approach to the Arran affair:


“The nameAzarbaijan” for the Republic of Azerbaijan (Soviet Azarbaijan) was selected on the assumption that the stationing of such as republic would lead to that entity Iranian to become one…this is the reason why the name “Azarbaijan” was selected (for Arran)…anytime when it is necessary to select a name that refers to the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, we should/can select the name Arran…”

Quote from Bartold, Soviet academic, politician and foreign office official. See Bartold, V.V., Sochineniia, Tom II, Chast I, Izdatelstvo Vostochnoi Literary, p.217, 1963. 


This was a brilliant geopolitical move, as it now allowed for Russia , like the Ottoman Turks before them, to eventually make a grab for Iranian Azarbaijan. It is very likely that Joseph (Iosef) Stalin (born Djugashvilii – his mother was Ossetian) (see photo below) was complicit in this action. Stalin deliberately and repeatedly referred to many famous Iranian literary figures (such as Nizami, Ganji, Shabestari, etc.) as “great national Azarbaijani literary figures”, with no mention of their association and origins in Persia .





Stalin’s tactic was to lump all historical figures and references from Arran and Azarbaijan as “Azarbaijanis”, pretending that these were never distinct provinces of Persia , and that neither had any cultural, linguistic or historical association with Persia .


Stalin specifically worked at removing pre-communist (Tsarist) archives that referred to the historical designations of the Republic of Azarbaijan . This included the Russian language “Russian Encyclopedia” (printed in 1890, St. Petersburg & Leipzig , Imperial Germany – see Matini, 1989, p.455 in References) which clearly distinguished Albania/Arran from Azarbaijan in Iran .


It was Stalin who encouraged the museums and maps of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan to refer to Azarbaijani cities in the Soviet Union and Iran as if they were one province. Stalin wanted no distinctions made between former Arran (Soviet Azarbaijan) and historical Azarbaijan (in Iran ). He instructed his hand-picked historians (both in Soviet Azarbaijan and Russia ) to revise the entire history of Arran and its association with Persia , and to blur Arran ’s distinction from the historical Azarbaijan of Iran (recall the quote from Bartold we cited previously).


By 1937, Soviet “Anthropologists” formally coined the ethnic name of "Azeris" to the Albanians/Arranis. These were published as azerbaidzantsi in Russian and rapidly translated by the Soviets to azarbaycanli, in Turkish. Stalin’s historians were instructed to engage in the process of ethno-engineering in which invented terms were used to de-Persianize those ethnic groups of the USSR that had long-standing associations with the culture and history of Persia . This has resulted in generations of people in the Republic of Azarbaijan being indoctrinated with Stalinist propaganda and falsified history. Today, a large number of the people of the Republic of Azarbaijan believe that Iranian Azarbaijan, which they call “Guney (South) Azarbaijan “, is “occupied” by Iran , and must be “liberated” and “reunited” with the Republic of Azarbaijan .  These false distortions are being actively promoted among Iranian Azarbaijanis.


It is interesting that pan-Turanian activists view Russia as an enemy, when Russia , between 1920-1990, spent much of its time and resources promoting their cause by directly sponsoring false anti-Persian scholarship and propaganda, to the benefit of pan-Turanian philosophies. Stalin supported the writing of the “Vatan Dili” (The Language of our Motherland), which provided a pan-Turanian version of the history of “Greater Azarbaijan” ( Arran and the historical Azarbaijan of Iran). The Vatan Dili was specifically written to excise all references of Iranian Azarbaijan ’s historical associations with Persia (e.g. Moses of Dasxuranci’s “History of the Caucasian Albanians” – see references, and item 3 further below).


Soviet ethno-engineers went much further however. They literally created at least twenty-four ethnic-territorial designations for numerous “nationalities” that had never existed before in history. Most of these new “nationalities” were Turkic (e.g. Buryatia, Yakutia, Kirgiziya). The Soviets administratively organized a mosaic of distinct Turkic regions in the USSR and virtually wrote (or invented) histories for each of them. These actions have been very helpful to pan-Turanian ideologues. Thanks to Soviet ethnic engineering, pan-Turanian ideologues can now point to “dozens of Turkish nations” that “must be united into a single Turan”.  


(d) Mr. Mohammad Amin Rasulzadeh. A leading proponent of Arran ’s name change was Mohammad Amin Rasulzadeh (1884-1955), the first leader of the newly created Republic of Azarbaijan (see photo below). Rasulzadeh was of Iranian origin from Baku , and was in fact heavily involved in the constitutional democratic movement of Iran during the early 1900s[xviii] (see Sattar Khan in item 5).





Rasulzadeh was in fact the editor of the newspaper Iran-e-Now (The New Iran). Russian influence and coercion finally forced the Iranian government to expel Rasulzadeh from Iran in 1909 (?); he was exiled to Ottoman Turkey, where the Young Turk movement had gained power.


The Young Turk movement had a profound psychological influence on Rasulzadeh; he became ensnared in the embrace of pan-Turanianism. It is noteworthy that before his conversion to pan-Turaniasm, Rasulzadeh viewed himself and his native Arran ( Albania ) in his writings as members of “Our beloved homeland Iran [xix] . By 1913, the Turanisized Rasulzadeh returned to the Caucasus where he joined the Musavat Party and became its leader shortly thereafter.


Iranians in general and Azarbaijani activists in particular, opposed the new name for Arran ( Albania ). Azarbaijani political activist Shaikh Mohammad Khiyabani[xx] (photo below) suggested that Iranian Azarbaijan’s name be changed to “Azadistan” ( Land of Freedom ) as to distinguish this from the newly created Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan[xxi] . The usage of the term “ Azarbaijan ” for Arran was also protested by north Iranian (Gilan) activist, Mirza Kuchek Khan (1880-1921).






Rasulzadeh was to admit in 1924 to his former Iranian comrade, Sheikh Hassan Taqhizadeh (photo below – seated next to him is Seyyed Abolhassan Alavi) of Tabriz that he wished to do “whatever is in his power to avoid any further discontent among Iranians[xxii] and explicitly admitted that “Albania (present Republic of Azerbaijan) is different from Azarbaijan (the original Azarbaijan in Iran)[xxiii] . Taqhizadeh and Alavi were the publishers of the popular Kaveh newspaper, named after one of ancient Persia ’s semi-mythical heroes.





By the 1930s, Rasulzadeh’s writings revealed his full conversion to pan-Turanianism:


(a) At first he admitted that “ Azarbaijan ” ( Arran and Azarbaijan in Iran ?) was an ancient Iranian province that had been linguistically Turcified since at least the 13th century.

(b) He then rejected his previous writings and declared that Azarbaijan (both Arran and Azarbaijan in Iran ) had always been “Turkish” and was never historically an integral part of Persia [xxiv] .


Rasulzadeh had betrayed his Iranian heritage in two ways. First, he failed to fulfill his promises to Iranian Azarbaijanis to rectify the name change he had bought for Arran (at pan-Turanian behest). Second, Rasulzadeh adopted a false, divisive, and racist ideology. Rasulzadeh’s legacy continues to haunt the Caucasus and Iran to this day.  That legacy has also provided an excellent tool for geopolitical manipulation.


After his arrest and expulsion from Russia , Rasulzadeh settled in Turkey , where he died in 1954 (see his funeral in Turkey below). Rasulzadeh established the “Azarbaijan National Centre” in Turkey , a movement which at the time was organized for the purpose of opposing Soviet rule in Arran (modern Republic of Azarbaijan ). 


Amin Funeral




(e) The role of Soviet Russia in 1941-1946. The notion of a “divided north Azarbaijan versus a south Azarbaijan ” was first invented by Russian historians of the Stalinist Soviet era[xxv] . Russian troops were in fact occupying Iranian Azarbaijan and Kurdistan as part of a joint occupation force with the British since 1941 (the Americans came soon after).


As the Tehran conference of November 29, 1943 was taking place, Stalin (seated below left, US President Roosevelt in centre, British Prime Minister Churchill at right), had already planned to set up his puppet republics in both Iranian Azarbaijan and Kurdistan . Even before Britain, Soviet Russia and the USA had signed the Tripartite Treaty, The US Secretary of State, Cordell Hull (1871-1955) had expressed his concern for Soviet assistance for separatist movements within northern Iran - the United States viewed this as alarming at the time (see Hull in References).


Tehran Conference



Jafar Pishevari (????-1947) led the separatist “ Azarbaijan Autonomous Republic ” (see photo at left) and Qazi Mohammad (1913-1946) (see photo at right) the Kurdish “ Republic of Mahabad ” during 1945-1946. Both movements were dependent on the Soviet Union , and collapsed almost immediately after the Soviet withdrawal in 1946. What is very interesting is that no pan-Turanian activist (see Chehreganli in item 5a) make few (if any) references to the fact that both Pishevari and Mohammad’s movements occurred in areas under direct Russian occupation.  



Pishevari Qazi Mohammed]


Note the exact similarity of the uniforms of the Kurdish “martyrs” to the Russian uniforms of the period. Below is a photo of Kurdish “martyrs” of the Soviet-supported Mahabad Republic – compare these to the field cap and uniform (note shoulder epaulettes) of General Georgi Zhukov (1896-1974) (immediately below the “martyrs” photo):






Note again the exact similarity of the uniforms of the “ Azarbaijan Feda-iyan” led by Gholam Yahya Daneshiyan (see photo at left – Daneshiyan stands at right) to the Russian uniforms of the period. Below right is a reconstruction of Russian officers in Berlin in 1945; by author Steven Zaloga and history illustrator Ron Volstad (see references for details):


Gholam Yahya





Despite the photo’s poor quality, Gholam Yahya’s uniform is clearly that of a Junior Lieutenant of the Russian red Army; the two men standing next to Yahya wear the uniforms and caps of Soviet NKVD officers (Red Army political/intelligence officers).


Pan-Azeri separatists also fail to explain why the Pishevari government collapsed so quickly as Tehran marched in to reclaim its authority. The Russians, who had been forced by International pressure (mainly US president Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) – see photo below) to end their occupation of Northern Persia, had left Pishevari with a large amount of ammunition and automatic weapons – they had also turned over to Pishevari much of the heavy equipment they had captured earlier in 1941 from the Iranian army.





Even as Russia reluctantly vacated Iran , she bought Communist activists from a number of nations (e.g. Anti-Athens Greek Communists)[xxvi] into Azarbaijan to fight for Pishevari. This was mainly due to concerns that the vast majority of Azarbaijanis viewed Pishevari as a Russian stooge and puppet, and would not fight for him. As their forces rapidly dissolved, Pishevari and his followers fled to the USSR . In Tabriz , capital of Iranian Azarbaijan, huge crowds celebrated the departure of Pishevari and his Russian supporters. These facts are corroborated in excerpts by the aforementioned Iranian Azarbaijani professor, Touraj Atabaki:  


“What appears to have been much more crucial than “Western pressure”…in bringing about the downfall of the Azarbaijani Democrats was the lack of popular (lack of popular (Azarbaijani) support they had to cope…the speed with which their regime (Pishevari) collapsed … the virtual absence of any form of popular armed resistance to the central government’s troops…” (p.176).

[ Touraj Atabaki , Azarbaijan : Ethnicity and the Struggle for Power in Iran . Published I.B. Taurus Publishers, 2000] 


Even as he was rejected by the very Azarbaijani people he so passionately advocated, Mr. Pishevari continued his fantasy of partitioning Iran as he sat in Baku . It was after his ejection from Iran , that Pishevari formalized the myth of a “north” and “south” Azarbaijan (the idea had already been toyed with by Soviet historians since the 1920s). As noted previously, “North” means the Republic of Azarbaijan (former Arran ) and “South” is the historical Azarbaijan of Iran.


There are now vigorous attempts by pan-Turanian activists and their western sympathizers to virtually ignore any link between Mr. Pishevari and Communist Russian support for his cause. In the Republic of Azarbaijan for example, Pishevari is officially presented as a hero “fighting to liberate the Azeri Turks from the racist Persians”. Sadly, there are now a number of naïve Iranian Azarbaijanis who officially celebrate Pishevari’s birthday. It would seem that time and historical revisionism has transformed Mr. Pishevari from Soviet collaborator to legend.


Archival research again reveals a less flattering image of Mr. Pishevari: a man with an openly servile attitude towards his Kremlin masters. Note Mr. Pishevari’s telegram to Mr. Mir Jaafar Bagherov, First Secretary of the Communist Party and Stalin's hand-picked man in Soviet Azarbaijan:


“Dear and Kind Father Mir Jaafar Bagherov,

The people of “south” Azarbaijan who are, beyond any doubt, a part of “north” Azarbaijan , like all peoples of the world, have eyed their hopes on the great people of the Soviet Union and the government of the Soviet Union .”

As published in the Azarbaijan Newspaper, No. 213, Azar 1329 (Iranian chronology), p.224, in Baku , The Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. This is cited by Jalal Matini , Azarbaijan Koja Ast? [Where is Azarbaijan ?]. Iranshenasi, Volume I, No.3, 1989b, p.458.

Note photo below of Mr. Pishevari in Baku with the Soviet sponsored Azarbaijan Newspaper:


Pishevari Baku



The government of the Soviet Union ”? The politically embarrassing Bagherov telegram reveals that Mr. Pishevari was still dreaming of “heroically” re-entering Iran – riding on the back of Soviet tanks of course. Thanks to massive funding and propaganda efforts, some misinformed Azarbaijanis are unaware of this information. The fact remains that Mr. Pishevari was a stooge of Mr. Joseph Stalin and his cronies in Moscow .


It is truly sad to see how misguided Mr. Pishevari was. The story of his demise however is even more tragic and is being hidden from public knowledge. “Official” Soviet history has it that Mr. Pishevari died in hospital and/or as a result of a car accident in Baku . The real history may be different however.


Although many of those details remain classified, a Georgian immigrant whose family had ties to the former Soviet regime (who has asked not be identified), noted that during his stay in Baku, Mr. Pishevari began to express doubts as to the wisdom of his actions and even felt that he had betrayed his nation, Iran. The fear of Pishevari “coming out” led Bagherov to quickly eliminate Pishevari before he made any embarrassing public statements. He may either have been suffocated with a pillow or died in his car as a result of deliberate mechanical tampering. These details cannot be independently verified and most likely the entire truth of these final tragic events will never be known.   


One of Stalin’s aims was to use his occupation as leverage to force oil concessions from the Iranian government at the time. Interestingly, a number of declassified documents suggest that the British were sympathetic to the Russians annexing Northern Persia . The British thought that they should “share” Persia ’s oil with the Russians. As noted by Professor Louis:


There was a powerful current of (British) Foreign Office thought…that Anglo-Soviet relations could be improved if it could be demonstrated to the Russians that the British did not intend to corner all of the Persian oil resources

[Louis, Wm., R., The British Empire in the Middle East , 1984, p.57]


Note the following statement made by the British Head of the Northern Department of the Foreign Office, Mr. C.F.A. Warner, at the height of the Pishevari crisis, where he suggested that the British:


“…look at the problem from the long-term angle of Anglo-Soviet relations rather than from the point of view of the feckless Persians”.

[Louis, Wm., R., The British Empire in the Middle East , 1984, p.58]


NOTE: Feckless generally means having no effect or importance, lacking purpose or vitality, feeble or ineffective, careless and irresponsible.


Pishevari was in fact trying to convert regional economic grievances into a full blown separatist movement – with Russian support. This is very similar to what is happening today with the geopolitically sponsored movements such as the United Azarbaijan Movement who endeavour at creating separatism based on local (mainly economic) grievances and linguistic differences (item 5a).


(2) Azarbaijanis have spoken Turkish since the advent of History.


(a) Archival Information.


Once again, historical archives contradict pan-Turanian ideology. Note the following example:


Al-Istakhri (10th Century AD): Cites people of Azarbaijan speaking both Persian and Arabic (as would have been the case in the entire Persian realm stretching to Central Asia at the time of the Caliphates). The Arranis are mentioned as speaking a different dialect, called “Arrani” which was different from that spoken by the Azarbaijanis.


The notion of Azarbaijanis as never having been part of the Persian nation linguistically and historically is again dramatically contradicted by:


Al-Masudi (10th Century AD): Reported Persians as “a people whose borders are the Mahat Mountains and Azarbaijan up to Armenia and Arran, and Baylaqan up to Darband (in the Caucaus), and Rayy and Tabaristan amd Masqat and Shabaran and Jorgan (Gorgan) and Abarshahr, and that is Nishabur, and Heart and Merv and other places in the land of Khorassan, and Sejistan and Kerman and Fars and Ahvaz…all these lands were one kingdom with one sovereign and one language…the language differed slightly…such as Pahlavi, Dari, Azeri, as well as other Persian languages.”


The Arrani dialect mentioned by Al-Istakhri was most likely a transitional post-Pahlavi language (like modern Kurdish), however it may have been a derivative of a North Iranian language, such as Ossetian.  Azeri was a Pahalvi based Iranian dialect, and there are unconfirmed reports of a certain “Fahlavi” dialect that is still spoken in isolated pockets in Azarbaijan . Most Iranian dialects were displaced by the migration of Oghuzz Turkic speaking arrivals to Arran and Azarbaijan from Central Asia , from and after the 11th century. 


(b) The Turkic arrivals & Manzikert. Pockets of Turkish arrivals to Arran and Azarbaijan are recorded in 1029 and 1044, however it was in 1054 when the Seljuk Turk warrior chief, Tughrul Beg, arrived to and received the submission of the local Iranian rulers of Arran and Azarbaijan . The local Iranian dialects, Azeri in particular, were gradually replaced by a Turkic language of the southwest family (Oghuzz). It was Alp Arslan (1029-72) who established the Seljuk dominion over much of Anatolia , Persia and Mesopotamia and ensured the legacy of the Turkish language in Azarbaijan and Arran . Byzantine Emperor Romanus Diogenes IV met Alp Arslan in the Battle at Manzikert and was defeated and captured by the Seljuks on August 19 or 26, 1071. A key element in the defeat of the Greeks was the act of betrayal by Andronicus Ducas, the commander of Romanus’ rearguard. At a crucial moment in the battle, Ducas simply retired to Constantinople (modern Istanbul ), apparently in a short-sighted and self-serving attempt at enhancing his own political position.


The Manzikert battle, and Alp Arslan’s victory was of immense consequence:

[a] It was a major factor leading to the crusades,

[b] The downfall of Constantinople in 1453

[c] Expansion of subsequent (Ottoman) Turkish power into Central Europe by the 1600s

[d] It ensured the survival of Turkish as the main vernacular in Azarbaijan and Arran


(c) Linguistic Turkification. The process of linguistic Turkification was reinforced with the arrival of the Mongols in the 1200s, and their Il-Khanid dynasty in Persia . Tamerlane’s descendants, the Qara/Kara-Qoyunlu (Black Sheep) and Ak/Aq-Qoyunlu (White Sheep) also ruled Iran . It must be noted that the Turkish migrants became absorbed into mainstream Persia , and they greatly patronized Persian, arts, culture and literature. Turks as whole have been tremendously influenced by Iranian culture – a prime example is the Moghul Dynasty of India, of Turkmen-Mongol descent. The Moghuls promoted Persian culture in India , a legacy which lasts to this day in modern India , Pakistan and Bangladesh . 


By the early 16th century (see Safavids item 4), Azarbaijani Turkish had largely replaced the indigenous Iranian Azeri in Azarbaijan and had also spread to Arran . The Turkish language however, did not alter the thousands year long Iranian character and legacy of Arran and Azarbaijan . As noted in item 4, the Safavid dynasty, whose members spoke Turkish in court and introduced much Turkish vocabulary to Iran , considered themselves as the heirs of Persia and bitterly fought the Ottoman Turks throughout their reign.


In Persia , identity has never been delineated by singular, simplistic and narrow concepts such as “race”, “mother language” or even “religion”. Consider the following examples:


The Buyid dynasty (945-1055 AD), hailed from the Daylamites of Northern Persia who spoke a post-Sassanian Pahlavi dialect. Note illustration of a Dailamite female governess/warrior of Rayy (near modern Tehran ):


Banu of Rayy




The aforementioned Nader Shah was an ethnic Turcomen and adhered to the Sunni branch of Islam. Karim Khan Zand (1705-1779) (see illustration below) and his partisans spoke Luri, a west Iranian language distinct from Persian and Kurdish. The Zands (like Nader Shah before them) were essential in preserving Persia ’s territorial integrity after the fall of the Safavids.





(d) Resistance against Ottoman Turks. The bitter legacy of Ottoman attempts to annex Azarbaijan and Arran, and to dismember Iran , has been long remembered by the Azarbaijanis, who virtually always stood as Persia ’s front line against Ottoman expansionism. Note the following observation by Professor Atabaki:


The well-established Ottoman policy of military expansion into Azarbaijan…goes a long way in explaining the hostile hostile Azarbaijani attitude towards what came to be the modern Republic of Turkey

[Touraj Atabaki, 2000, p.11]


Pan-Turanian ideologues are attempting to change this history as well. Simply put, they are perpetuating (yet another) fraudulent view that Azarbaijanis and Ottoman Turks have been friendly allies ever since the foundation of the Ottoman Empire . This is as absurd as trying to pretend that Russia and Germany were close allies during World War One (1914-1918) and World War Two (1941-1945).


The Safavids (Azarbaijanis), Nader Shah Afshar (Turcomen) and Karim Khan Zand (Lur) all considered themselves to be the heirs of the ancient Persian realm. It is truly ironic to see pan-Turanian ideologues claiming the Safavids and Afsharids (among others) as “ethnic Turks”, as it was these who formed a major factor in resisting the Ottoman Empire and defeating its attempts to annex Persia .


(e) World War One. Pan-Turanian ideologues have been deluding themsleves about the history of the Perso-Ottoman wars ever since the foundation of the Young Turk movement (and perhaps earlier). When Iran was in virtual chaos during and after World War One, the Ottomans simply marched into Iran ’s Azarbaijan province, believing they could easily create another “Musavat” style pan-Turanian movement. Their flawed sense of history (and reality) resulted in an abysmal failure:


Contrary to their expectations, the achievements of pan-Turkists in Azarbaijan during and immediately after World War One were not very impressive. Although the province was occupied by Ottoman troops, their attempts to create a solid base of support among Azarbaijanis ended in failuredid not succeed in facilitating Azarbaijani-Ottoman relations…arrest popular leaders Khiyabani and Nowbari and sent them into exile…what they (the Ottomans) did resulted in whipping up anti-Ottoman sentiment

[Touraj Atabaki, 2000, p.11 – see References]


Very little is known about Ottoman military activities in Iran during World War One. The Ottomans had in fact built three airbases in Iranian Azarbaijan and Kurdistan – note the air base in Baku as well (see map below of Ottoman bases in Iran and Baku – Nicolle in references):


Turk Base



There are three ways in which pan-Turanian ideologues are re-writing this particular saga of history:


[a] They state that there was no forceful occupation of Iran ’s Azarbaijan

[b] That the Azarbaijani’s welcomed the Ottoman occupiers

[c] Khiyabani (item 1a) was a pan-Turanian seperatist and an ally of the Ottomans (see item 5a).


As with nearly all of their assertions, pan-Turanian statements diverge from historical veracity to the extreme.


(3) Turks have been in the Caucasus for over 5000 Years.


This is a relatively new claim, apparently first made in the late 1970s. Pan-Turanian activists claim to have proof that the Turks have the oldest, most influential and deeply rooted influence in the Caucasus . Simply put, pan-Turanian ideology now claims not only Iranian Azarbaijan, but the entire Caucasus ( Armenia , The Republic of Georgia, The Republic of Azerbaijan, Daghestan, Chechniya, and other autonomous regions). The Turkish legacy is claimed to date back to at least 5000 years.


This is at best, a grandiose exaggeration. The real influence of the Turks begins with the Seljuks and Ottomans, and even then, the Turks are only one more layer upon an ancient region that has seen a rich and varied legacy. If anything, it is the Persian and (to a lesser extent), the Greco-Roman legacies that remain in the Caucasus . The Turks, like the Russians and Ukrainians certainly have their legacy in the Caucasus . The issue in question is the exaggeration of the Turkish role, now proposed by pan-Turanian ideologues.


The Caucasus is one of the oldest cradles of human civilization – a prime example being the proto-Kartvelian Hurrian empire (2500-1270 BC) which at one time ruled much of northwest Iran and contemporary Kurdistan . The Hurrian legacy is still evident among the Kurds who use the ergative feature in their speech – a phenomenon seen in modern Georgian. While the Caucasus has certainly seen its share of Persian, Greek, Turkish and Russian influence, she has in turn vigorously and profoundly influenced all of these cultures in turn.   


(a) Armenia , Georgia , Albania/Arran (see and Adontz, Blockley, Chamich, Farrokh, Garosian, Grousset, Lang, Moses of Dasxuranci, Oberling, Razhdan, Russell, Whittow in references). Archival records, anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics fail to substantiate pan-Turanian ideology. The aforementioned Professor Whittow has concluded that:


The oldest outside influence in Trans-Caucasia is that of Persia (p.203)…many of its populations, including Armenians and Georgians, as well as Persians and Kurds, the Transcaucasus had much closer ties with the former Sassanian world to its south and east than with the world to the west (p.204)”.

[Whittow, Mark, The Making of Byzantium : 600-1025, Berkley : University of California Press, p. 203-204].


Understandably, objective information about any Persian legacy in the Caucasus is viewed as threatening to pan-Turanian activists and their geopolitical and petroleum supporters in the west (see Fatema Soudavar Farmanfarmain’s observations in Part VI, item 8).


With regards to Armenia , pan-Turanian nationalists are terse and strikingly clear:


" Armenia is a fictitious state created on Azarbaijani land ..."

(Excerpted from the late Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azarbaijan , "Decree of the President of Azarbaijan on the Genocide of the Azarbaijanis." 26 March 1998 )


It is very shocking to have a head of state refer to a neighboring nation in such a dismissive manner. Armenians are perhaps one of the world’s most ancient and inventive people’s of history. Simply put, the late President’s assessment widely diverges from reality. Armenians are now understood to have been derived from the post-Hittite Phyrgian migrations that originated in the Balkans (they migrated across the Aegean and Anatolia to reach the Caucasus ). They predate the arrival of any Turkic or Mongol people in the Caucasus by thousands of years. (See Bishop Ukhtanes of Sebasteia in references)


Armenians are perhaps one of the oldest surviving Indo-European peoples and may trace their origins to the ancient Phrygians who migrated from the Balkans into Anatolia, eventually taking residence in historical Armenia . They have no anthropological, linguistic or cultural links to Central Asian Turkic peoples (see item 7 below).


The Armenian connection to Persia is as old as the Persian Empire itself, and some would argue even earlier, to the time of the Medes.


From the mid 6th century to the late 4th century BC Armenia and much of Georgia were a part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire (559-333 BC). The independent Armenian kingdom was ruled by an Iranian dynasty, which was a branch of the royal house of Parthia in Persia .


The Iberian kingdom (The Kartli – the eastern half of modern Georgia ) had Persian ruling classes up to the 6th century AD. Armenians, Georgians and Albanians/Arranis adopted much of Persia ’s aristocratic ways, arts, music, dress, dance, literature, and culture (see Frye 1984, and Ghirshman in references). Persian words are still prevalent in modern Georgian (e.g. Panjera-“window”) and Armenian (e.g. Khoda-“God”). Armenian has so many Iranian loan words that linguists incorrectly viewed it as an Iranian language for years. Even with the spread of Christianity across the western Caucasus and with it, increasing Greco-Roman influence, Persian and Zoroastrian traditions continued to endure.


The Armenian term for nobility – “Naxarar” – is of Persian (Sassanian?) origin. Armenian warriors were so highly regarded by the Sassanians that they were allowed to wear the emblems and regalia of the “Savaran”, Sassanian Persia ’s elite cavalry. When the Gok (Celestial/blue) Turks and their Hephthalite allies attempted to invade Sassanian Persia from Central Asia in 619 AD, it was Smbat Bargratuni (see depiction by Angus McBride below – Farrokh in references), a Sassanian general of Armenian origin who conclusively defeated their forces:





Equally important are Armenian links to the Greco-Roman Byzantine Empire . Many historical Byzantine figures of note may have had Armenian ancestry. These may include Leo V (ruled 813-820), Basil I (ruled 867-886), John Tzimiskes (ruled 969-976), and perhaps the wife of Emperor Theophilos, Empress Theodora who is reputed to have restored orthodoxy in 843 AD. When examining Byzantine seals and records, a very large number of Armenian names are evident – examples include Bardas-Bardanes (related to Persian “Bardia”), Arsabir, Artabasdos (related to Persian “Arta”) and Symbatios. Significantly, a very large number of officers in the Byzantine armies were of Armenian origin (e.g. Narses).


One reference that has been almost totally removed from the Republic of Azarbaijan by both Soviet and pan-Turanian activists is Moses of Dasxuranci’s History of the Caucasian Albanians (see References). Originally written in the 10th century AD, this book also reproduced older manuscripts as well. Dasxuranci has made the connection of the Albanians/Arranis to Persia absolutely clear. An example of this is the description of the Sepahbod (Marshall) of Albania and his officers who fought at the Battle of Qadissiyah in 637 AD (see Dowsett’s translation of Dasxuranci, p.110-113), in which the Arabs emerged victorious. Not surprisingly, few of the educated elites in the Republic of Azarbaijan have even heard of Moses of Dasxuranci.


Byzantine records make no reference to any Turkic origins with respect to Armenia , Georgia and Albania/Arran. Instead, as noted previously, the only outside cultural influences in the Caucasus are those of the Persians followed by the Greeks.


Turkic peoples appear as invaders from the Central Asian Steppes which they had also conquered from their original homeland in Eastern Mongolia . One of the earliest Turkic arrivals appears to the north of the Caucasus : the Khazars who converted to Judaism. Byzantine and Armenian sources make no mention of any of the Turkic arrivals being indigenous to the Caucasus, Northern Iran or Anatolia. In almost every case, they came as warrior-invaders and introduced their language on the majority non-Turkic populations of Arran/Albania, the historical Azarbaijan (in Iran ), as well as Anatolia .


The onset of powerful Turkish influence can be traced to the Ottoman Empire and its wars with the Safavid Empire in Persia (see item 5 further below). Despite centuries of warfare between the Ottomans and the Safavids (followed by the Afsharids), the legacy of Persian cultural influence continued unabated. Georgian and Armenian figures continued to rank prominently in Medieval Persian affairs. Examples include:


  1. Zaynab Begom queen of Shah Tahmasp

  2. Allahverdi Khan who was commander of the Safavid Army between 1595-1613)

  3. Khosrow Mirza (Rostam Khan) one of the most important Safavid officials

  4. Constantin Mirza, son of Georgian king Alexander, sent to govern Fars province


It is impossible to provide an exhaustive list of prominent Armenians and Georgians, however, the point has hopefully been made to the interested reader.


It was only after the wars of Imperial Czarist Russia that Persia was permanently pushed out of the Caucasus, except for Azarbaijan and Talysh. The Treaties of Golestan (1813) and Turkemenchai (1827) compelled Persia to accede to Russia ’s conquests in the Caucasus .


(4) The Safavid Empire was Turkish.  


Ever since his brief tenure as president of the Republic of Azarbaijan in 1991-1993, Abulfazl Elchibey (1938-2000) (see photo below) was vehemently anti-Persian and openly called for the partitioning of Iran (see Hiro in References).





Note some of the excerpts of his speech at the V Congress [Kurultai] of the Azarbaijan Popular Front Party, 30-31 January 1998 delivered in Turkey :


“The creation of the Azarbaijan Democratic Republic in the Northern Azarbaijan on some of some of Azarbaijani lands in 1918-1921, and its restoration…in 1991, does not mean that the Azarbaijan national liberation movement is over. … The new stage will end with the creation and or restoration of a united restoration of a united Azarbaijani statehood. … Already [in Iran ] there are active organizations, whose sole purpose is the state independence of the Azeri Turks.”


Dr. Elchibey has conveniently neglected to mention how Arran was re-named as “ Azarbaijan ” by pan-Turanian nationalists and that the real Azarbaijan is situated in Iran today (as noted in Item 1). Elchibey’s claims of the “restoration of a united Azarbaijani statehood” is void of any historical basis or veracity for the simple reason that no such state has ever existed.


Dr. Elchibey based much of his ideology on his re-invention of the Safavids of Persia as an exclusively Turkish dynasty. He had been a history professor in Baku during the communist era and had been jailed for years by the Soviets.


Elchibey was barred from teaching upon his release. He then turned to archival and records research, and here is where one may raise a few questions. As an archival researcher, what went through Elchibey’s mind as he observed the pre-1918 maps showing Arran, its association with Persia and the history of the Safavid Empire? Perhaps he never saw them, as the Soviets had already spent over 70 years expunging archives, re-writing history books and falsifying information in the Republic of Azarbaijan . Dr. Elchibey’s mind was as much a victim of fabricated information as it was of his own Chauvinism.  


In an almost bizarre act of publicity, Elchibey made a public spectacle of hanging a portrait of Shah Ismail (ruled 1501-1524), the founder of the Safavid dynasty (1501-1736) in his home (see a European portrait of Shah Ismail below).





This was an attempt to “prove” that the Safavids were anti-Persian Turks and a Turkish empire . Note how the portrait contradicts Elchibey. The partially visible Latin lettering states Ismail as the king (note the term “Rex”) of Persia (note the “Per” is evident on the top right side of this partial photo). Elchibey must have seen this portrait during his long tenure as a professor and archivist. From the viewpoint of a cognitive psychologist an interesting question can be asked: how did Elchibey’s mind work at accommodating information that contradicted his ideology? Cognitive dissonance.


More importantly, Elchibey’s ideology runs contrary to the historical fact that the Safavids endeavoured to recreate the Persian Empire and their boundaries corresponded to ancient Persia (see map of Sassanian Persia at its maximum extent in 610 AD (below left) and a map of Safavid Persia (below right) at the eve of the Battle of Caldiran (before Ottoman Sultan Selim’s successful attack) in 1514 AD.



SafavidMap [Pic 60- SassMap



While true that by the time of the Safavids, Turkish had become prevalent in Iranian Azarbaijan and Arran , the Safavids were vehemently anti-Ottoman. Elchibey conveniently forgot to mention that the Ottoman Turks fought Ismail at Chaldiran (1514).and forcibly occupied much of western and Northern Persia and the Caucasus before being militarily expelled by Shah Abbas the Great (1587-1629) (see photo below – see Custos in references) in 1603.  Also neglected is the fact that Safavid Persia and Europe were allies against the Ottoman Turks for centuries. A dramatic example of this is the role of the English engineer/adventurers, known as the Sherley brothers who helped Shah Abbas create an indigenous musket and cannon industry to fight the formidable Ottomans. Shah Abbas’ personal bodyguard were recruited from the Armenians and the Georgians of the Caucasus (recall item 3a).






Note the clear inscription “Shach Abas Persarum Rex” – Shah Abbas, King/ Sovereign of Persia . The copper engraving shown above of Shah Abbas, made by Dominicus Custos lists him among the Atrium of the heroic “Caesars” of history – in reference to his victories over the Ottomans. Custos makes a particular emphasis on linking Shah Abbas to the “Mnemona Cyrus” (the Memory of Cyrus the Great of Persia).  The Safavids regarded themselves as the heirs of the Persian Empire , founded by Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC), as corroborated by European sources (see Matini 1992 in References).


Pan-Turanian activists (and a number of western academics) are engaged in Herculean efforts to expunge this information and suppress these historical archives from Iranian Azarbaijanis. Instead they rationalize the wars of Shah Ismail and Abbas as “wars between Turkish brothers based on religion (Sunni versus Shiite)”. Fraudulent terms such as “The great Turkish-Azeri Empire” are also being invented to push the pan-Turanian agenda forward. All of these attempts at outright falsification ignore the following: 


(a) Why did the Safavids fight in the name of Persia ?

(b) Why did Shah Abbas decide to make Isfahan the capital of Persia in 1598?

(c) Why was Persian architecture, music, literature and the arts so actively promoted?

(d) Why did the Safavids so strongly insist on Shiism versus Sunnism to distinguish themselves from the Sultans of Istanbul?


Incredibly, Pan-Turanian activists have explained these events as “mistakes”. As the gentle reader, you may wish to contemplate what “mistakes” these actually signify. But it is here where we run into further historical ironies. The Ottoman Turks were themselves great patrons of Persian literature and the Turkish Sultans wrote and spoke Persian very well. Sultan Selim “Yavuz” (The Grim) (1465-1520) (see photo below) wrote in Persian to his archenemy, Shah Ismail, even as Ismail wrote back to him in Turkish!







Elchibey also failed to mention that Ismail was in fact Kurdish, and was an adherent of the ancient Sufi cults of western and northern Persia . Ismail followed the teachings of Sheik Gilani in Northern Persia (see photo of Gilani’s shrine in northern Persia below – see Tarverdi in references). Many Kurds in Iraq and Turkey (as well as Turkish Alevis) follow Gilani’s teachings today and view Ismail as an enlightened Avatar. Ismail also claimed to be a descendant of the Royal house of the Sassanian Empire (224-651 AD). 





Elchibey represented the final evolution of a racist philosopher, one who projects imagined events into a history that never existed, and one who is able to rationalize and believe what his thinking process produces.


Despite their high level of university education, many pan-Turanian activists (such as the late Abulfazl Elchibey), are virtually immune to scholastic or logical explanations that contradict their beliefs. Their cognitive dissonance leads to reinterpret what is historically true as False and what is False as truth. The same cognitive process is true of Western European Nordicists/racial chauvinists, pan-Kurdish nationalists, Persian chauvinists, and Religious fundamentalists.


Elchibey went to his grave believing the rhetoric of the Grey Wolves and fleeing any suggestion that Arran ever existed or (heaven forbid) had any association with Persia . This is a real tragedy as Elchibey was known for his piety, incorruptibility, honesty and personal kindness. It is unfortunate that his thinking process led him to have such a profound hatred of Armenians and Iranians, peoples with whom Azarbaijanis as a whole, enjoy rich historical, anthropological and cultural links.


Less reported is the fact that after his overthrow by Heidar Aliev (1923-2003) (below left photo), Tansu Ciller (Turkish Prime Minister 1993-1996, below centre photo) was implicated in a failed coup to reinstall Elchibey in Baku . This act resulted in a furious scandal in Turkey , and Ciller’s fanatic pro-Grey Wolf leanings (not to mention a select group of Turkish officers, who were complicit in the affair) were now more openly exposed to the Turkish public. It was Suleiman Demirel (below right photo) who tipped off the Baku government to the attempted coup. 


Aliev Ciller Demirel


It must be noted that Demirel has been on record several times noting that Iran and Turkey have much to gain by directly and constructively co-operating and working together (rather than against each other) in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Near East. He is among many Turks who realize that Iranians and Turks have had a long history of admixture and cultural exchanges. Tragically, it would appear that people like Tansu Ciller and the Grey Wolves have a somewhat different view.



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