Azerbaijani people

Azerbaijani people

Infobox Ethnic group
group = Azerbaijanis "Azərbaycanlılar, Azərilər" آذربایجانلیلار ,آذریلر
population = approx. 20.5 to 33 million

region1 = flagcountry|Iran
pop1 = 12 to 20.1 million
ref1 = lower| [ "Iran: People"] , "CIA: The World Factbook" (retrieved 7 June 2006).] [ "Iran"] , "Amnesty International report on Iran and Azerbaijanis" (retrieved 30 July 2006).] "Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity" in "The Azerbaijani Population" by Brenda Shaffer, pp. 221–225. The MIT Press (2003), ISBN 0-262-19477-5 (retrieved 10 June 2006).] [ "Iran"] in the Encyclopedia Orient (retrieved 18 Aug 2006).]
region2 = flagcountry|Azerbaijan
pop2 = 7,205,500
ref2 = lower| [ "Population by ethnic groups"] , "The State Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan Republic" (retrieved 19 June 2006).] [ "Azerbaijan: ɹPeople"] , "CIA Factbook". Azeri ethnic percentage of 90.6% used to calculate population derived from Azeri census (retrieved 7 June 2006).]
region3 = flagcountry|Turkey
pop3 = 800,000
ref3 = lower| [ "Turkey: Religions & Peoples"] , "Encyclopedia of the Orient" (retrieved 7 June 2006)]
region4 = flagcountry|Russia
pop4 = 622,000
ref4 = lower| [ "Azerbaijanis in Russia"] , "2002 Russian Census" (retrieved 7 June 2006)]
region5 = flagcountry|Georgia
pop5 = 284,761
ref5 = lower| [ [ "State Statistics Department of Georgia: 2002 census"] (retrieved 16 July 2006)]
region6 =
pop6 =
ref6 =
region7 = flagcountry|Kazakhstan
pop7 = 80,000
ref7 = lower| [ "Ethnodemographic situation in Kazakhstan"] (1999 census) (retrieved 7 June 2006).]
region8 = flagcountry|Germany
pop8 = 55,000
ref8 =
region9 = flagcountry|Ukraine
pop9 = 46,000
ref9 = lower| [ "About number and composition population of Ukraine by data All-Ukrainian census of the population 2001"] , "Ukraine Census 2001" (retrieved 7 June 2006).]
region10 = flagcountry|Netherlands
pop10 = 17,000
ref10 = lower| [ [ Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Azerbaijan-Netherlands relations: Diaspora Info (October 2007)] . NB Of these, 7,000 are immigrants from Azerbaijan]
region11 =flagcountry|United States
pop11 = 5,553
ref11 = lower| [ [ First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000] . This number includes both primary and secondary ancestry. (retrieved 18 April 2008).]
region12 = flagcountry|Canada
pop12 = 3,465
ref12 = lower| [List of Canadians by ethnicity (following 2006 census). NB Canadian census on ancestry may not reflect current ethnic affiliation in Canada. (retrieved 7 June 2006). In the 2006 census, 1,480 people indicated 'Azeri'/'Azerbaijani' as a single response and 1,985 - as part of multiple origins. ]
region13 = flagcountry|Austria
pop13 = 1,000
ref13 =lower| [ [ Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Azerbaijan-Austria relations: Diaspora Info (February 2008)] . NB Of these, about 70-75% are Iranian Azeris, 15-20% are Turkish Azeris and 5-10% are Azeris originally from Azerbaijan and the former Soviet Union.]
region14 = flagcountry|Australia
pop14 = 290
ref14 = lower| [ [ 2006 Australian Census] . NB According to the 2006 census, 290 people living in Australia identified themselves as of Azeri ancestry, although the Australian-Azeri community is estimated to be larger. (retrieved 1 April 2008)]
region15 = flagcountry|Denmark
pop15 = 116
ref15 = lower| [ [ StatBank Denmark (2008)] . NB This number includes Danish citizens who declare Azerbaijan as their country of origin. It does not account for ethnic Azeris from Iran. (retrieved 25 April 2008)]
region16 = other regions
pop16 = 30,000
ref16 =
languages = Azerbaijani
religions = Predominantly Shiite Muslims; minorities practice Sunni Islam, Christianity, Bahá'í Faith, and Zoroastrianism
relate ethnic groups = Iranian peoples, Caucasian peoples, Turkic peoples.
The Azerbaijanis [(pron-en|ˌæzɚbaɪˈdʒɑːni; in Azeri: "Azərbaycanlılar", Azeris/"Azərilər", Azeri Turks/"Azəri Türkləri"; Azeri Cyrillic: "Азәриләр") or Azarbaijanis] [ "Iran"] , "US Library of Congress Country Studies" (retrieved 7 June 2006). (in Iran; also Azaris, Turks/"Torks")] are an ethnic group mainly in the Republic of Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran. Commonly referred to as Azeris (Azeri: آذریلر "Azәrilәr") or Āzarīs (Persian: آذری ), they also live in a wider area from the Caucasus to the Iranian plateau. The Azeris are typically Muslim and have a mixed cultural heritage of Turkic, Iranian, and Caucasian elements.

Despite living on both sides of an international border, the Azeris form a single ethnic group. [ "Azerbaijani"] , "Encyclopedia Britannica" (retrieved 7 June 2006).] However, northerners and southerners differ due to nearly two centuries of separate social evolution in Russian/Soviet-influenced Azerbaijan and Iranian Azarbaijan. The Azerbaijani language unifies Azeris and is mutually intelligible with Turkmen and Turkish (including the dialects spoken by the Iraqi Turkmen and by the Qashqai). All of these languages are traced to the Turkic OghuzFact|date=July 2008, who moved into the Caucasus from Central Asia in the 11th century. Following the Russian-Persian Wars of the 18th and 19th centuries, Persian territories in the Caucasus were ceded to the Russian Empire. [ "Azerbaijan"] , "MSN Encarta" (retrieved 25 January 2007)] This included parts of the current Republic of Azerbaijan. The treaties of Gulistan in 1813 and Turkmenchay in 1828 finalized the border between Russia and Persia (today known as Iran).

As a result of this separate existence, the Azeris are mainly secular in Azerbaijan and religious Muslims in Iran. Since Azerbaijan's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, there has been renewed interest in religion and cross-border ethnic ties [ "Observations from Azerbaijan"] , "MERIA" (retrieved 17 July 2007)]


Azerbaijan is believed to be named after "Atropates", a Median satrap (governor) who ruled in "Atropatene" (modern Iranian Azarbaijan)."Historical Dictionary of Azerbaijan" by Tadeusz Swietochowski and Brian C. Collins. The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Lanham, Maryland (1999), ISBN 0-8108-3550-9 (retrieved 7 June 2006).] Atropates is derived from Old Persian roots meaning "protected by fire.""The Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity under Russian Rule" by Audrey Altstadt. Hoover Institution Press (1992), ISBN 0-8179-9182-4 (retrieved 7 June 2006).] Azerbaijan has seen a host of inhabitants and invaders, including Caucasians, Medes, Scythians, Persians, Armenians, Greeks, Romans, Khazars, Arabs, Oghuz, Seljuks, Mongols, and Russians.

In the 11th century A.D. with Seljukid conquests, Oghuz Turkic tribes started moving across the Iranian plateau into the Caucasus and Anatolia. The influx of the Oghuz and other Turkmen tribes was further accentuated by the Mongol invasions, [ Encyclopedia Iranica. C. E. Bosworth. Arran] ] . Here they divided into Ottomans, who were Sunni and settled, and Turkmens or Turcomans, who were nomads and in part Shiite (or rather, Alevi). The latter were to keep the name "Turkmen" or "Turcoman" for a long time: from 13th century onwards they gradually Turkified the Iranian-speaking populations of Azerbaijan, thus creating a new identity based on Shiism and the use of Turkic. These are the people today known as Azeris [cite book |title=The new Central Asia |last=Roy |first=Olivier |url=,M1 |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2007 |publisher=I.B. Tauris |location= |isbn=184511552X |pages=6 ]

Ancient period

Caucasian Albanians are believed to be the earliest inhabitants of the region where modern day Republic of Azerbaijan is located.Historical Dictionary] Early invaders included the Scythians in the ninth century BC. [ Azerbaijan] , "US Library of Congress Country Studies" (retrieved 7 June 2006).] Following the Scythians, the Medes came to dominate the area to the south of the Aras. The Medes forged a vast empire between 900-700 BC, which was integrated into the Achaemenids Empire around 550 BC. During this period, Zoroastrianism spread in the Caucasus and Atropatene. The Achaemenids in turn were defeated by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, but the Median satrap Atropates was allowed to remain in power. Following the decline of the Seleucids in Persia in 247 BC, an Armenian Kingdom exercised control over parts of Caucasian Albania between 190 BC to 387 AD. [ "Armenia-Ancient Period"] , "US Library of Congress Country Studies" (retrieved 23 June 2006)] [ Strabo, "Geography"] , "Perseus Digital Library", Tufts University (retrieved 24 June 2006).] Caucasian Albanians established a kingdom in the first century BC and largely remained independent until the Sassanids made the kingdom a vassal state in 252 AD.p. 38] Caucasian Albania's ruler, King Urnayr, officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century AD, and Albania would remain a Christian state until the 8th century. [ "Albania"] , "Encyclopedia Iranica", p. 807 (retrieved 15 June 2006).] [ "Voices of the Ancients: Heyerdahl Intrigued by Rare Caucasus Albanian Text" by Dr. Zaza Alexidze] , "Azerbaijan International", Summer 2002 (retrieved 7 June 2006).] Sassanid control ended with their defeat by Muslim Arabs in 642 AD. "Islamic Conquest", Library of Congress...]

Medieval period

Muslim Arabs defeated the Sassanids and Byzantines as they marched into the Caucasus region. The Arabs made Caucasian Albania a vassal state after the Christian resistance, led by Prince Javanshir, surrendered in 667.p. 71] Between the ninth and tenth centuries, Arab authors began to refer to the region between the Kura and Aras rivers as "Arran".p. 20] During this time, Arabs from Basra and Kufa came to Azerbaijan and seized lands that indigenous peoples had abandoned; the Arabs became a land-owning elite. "A History of Islamic Societies" by Ira Lapidus, p. 48. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1988), ISBN 0-521-77933-2 (retrieved 7 June 2006).] Conversion to Islam was slow as local resistance persisted for centuries and resentment grew as small groups of Arabs began migrating to cities such as Tabriz and Maraghah. This influx sparked a major rebellion in Iranian Azarbaijan from 816–837, led by a local Zoroastrian commoner named Bābak. "The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates" by Hugh Kennedy, p. 166. Longman Group, London (1992), ISBN 0-582-40525-4 (retrieved 7 June 2006).] However, despite pockets of continued resistance, the majority of the inhabitants of Azerbaijan converted to Islam. Later on, in the 10th and 11th centuries, Kurdish dynasties of Shaddadid and Rawadid ruled parts of Azerbaijan.

In the middle of the eleventh century, the Seljuq dynasty overthrew Arab rule and established an empire that encompassed most of Southwest Asia. The Seljuk period marked the influx of Oghuz nomads into the region and, thus, the beginning of the turkification of Azerbaijan as the West Oghuz Turkic language supplanted earlier Caucasian and Iranian ones."Azerbaijan: Early History", Library of Congress...] [ Turkic Languages: Classification] - Encyclopedia Britannica (retrieved 8 June 2006)]

However, Iranian cultural influence survived extensively, as evidenced by the works of then contemporary writers such as Persian poet Nezāmī Ganjavī. The emerging Turkic identity was chronicled in epic poems or "dastans", the oldest being the "Book of Dede Korkut", which relate allegorical tales about the early Turks in the Caucasus and Asia Minor.p.45] Turkic dominion was interrupted by the Mongols in 1227 and later the Mongols and Tamerlane ruled the region until 1405. Turkic rule returned with the Sunni Qara Qoyunlū (Black Sheep Turkmen) and Aq Qoyunlū (White Sheep Turkmen), who dominated Azerbaijan until the Shi'a Safavids took power in 1501.p. 285] p.113]

Modern period

The Safavids, who rose from Iranian Azerbaijan and lasted until 1722, established the modern Iranian state. [ The Safavid Empire] , University of Calgary (retrieved 8 June 2006).] [ Shi'a: The Safavids] , Washington State University (retrieved 8 June 2006).] [ Safavid Empire 1502–1736] , Iran Chamber (retrieved 19 June 2006).] Noted for achievements in state building, architecture, and the sciences, the Safavid state crumbled due to internal decay and external pressures from the Russians and Afghans. The Safavids encouraged and spread Shi'a Islam which is an important part of the national identity of Iranian Azerbaijani people as well as many Azerbaijanis north of the Aras. The Safavids encouraged the arts and culture and Shah Abbas the Great created an intellectual atmosphere which according to some scholars was a new "Golden Age of Persia".Kathy Sammis, "Focus on World History: The First Global Age and the Age of Revolution", pg 39.] He reformed the government and the military, and responded to the needs of the common people.

Ottoman rule followed the brief Safavid state, before conquest by Nadir Shah Afshar, a chieftain from Khorasan who reduced the power of the Shi'a.p. 300] The brief reign of Karim Khan came next, followed by the Qajars, who ruled Azerbaijan and Iran starting in 1779.p. 106] Russia loomed as a threat to Persian holdings in the Caucasus in this period. The Russo-Persian Wars began in the eighteenth century and ended in the early nineteenth century with the Gulistan Treaty of 1813 and the Turkmenchay Treaty in 1828, which officially gave the Caucasian portion of Qajar Iran to the Russian Empire.Alstadt]

Iranian Azerbaijan's role in the Iranian constitutional revolution cannot be underestimated. The greatest figures of the democracy seeking revolution Sattar Khan [ [ Sattar Khan] ] and Bagher Khan were both from Iranian Azerbaijan. The Constitutional Revolution of 1906–11 shook the Qajar dynasty, whose kings had virtually sold the country to the tobacco and oil interests of the British Empire and had lost territory to the Russian empire. A parliament (Majlis) came into existence by the efforts of the constitutionalists. It was accompanied in some regions by a peasant revolt against tax collectors and landlords, the only indigenous mainstay of the monarchy. Pro-democracy newspapers appeared, and Iranian intellectuals began to relish the modernist breezes blowing from Paris and Petrograd. The Qajar Shah and his British advisers crushed the Constitutional Revolution, but the demise of the dynasty could not be long postponed. The last Shah of the Qajar dynasty was soon removed by a military coup led by Reza Khan, an officer of an old Cossack regiment, which had been created by Czarist Russia and officered by Russians to protect the Qajar ruler and Russian interests. In the quest of imposing national homogeneity on the country where half of the population consisted of ethnic minorities, Reza Shah issued in quick succession bans on the use of Azerbaijani language on the premises of schools, in theatrical performances, religious ceremonies, and, finally, in the publication of books. [Tadeusz Swietochowski, "Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition" (ISBN 0-231-07068-3)]

With the dethronement of Reza Shah in September 1941, Russian troops captured Tabriz and northwestern Persia for military and strategic reasons. Azerbaijan People's Government, a client state set up by the order of Stalin himself, under leadership of Sayyid Jafar Pishevari was proclaimed in Tabriz [ [ Cold War International History Project 1945–46 Iranian Crisis] ] However, under pressure by the Western countries, the Soviet army was soon withdrawn, and the Iranian government regained control over Iranian Azerbaijan by the end of 1946.

According to Professor. Gary R. Hess:

While the Azeris in Iran largely integrated into modern Iranian society, the northern Azeris lived through the transition from the Russian Empire to brief independence from 1918–1920 and then incorporation into the Soviet Union despite pleas by Woodrow Wilson for their independence at the Treaty of Versailles conference. The Republic of Azerbaijan achieved independence in 1991, but became embroiled in a war over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.


In many references, Azerbaijanis are designated as a Turkic people, due to their Turkic language. [ "Azerbaijan: People"] , "Encyclopedia Britannica" (retrieved 11 June 2006)] "An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples" by Peter B. Golden. Otto Harrasowitz (1992), ISBN 3-447-03274-X (retrieved 8 June 2006).] "Turkic Peoples", "Encyclopedia Americana", volume 27, page 276. Grolier Inc., New York (1998) ISBN 0-7172-0130-9 (retrieved 8 June 2006).] However, modern-day Azerbaijanis are believed to be primarily the descendants of the Caucasian and Iranic peoples who lived in the areas of the Caucasus and northern Iran, respectively, prior to Turkification. Various historians including Vladimir Minorsky explain how largely Iranian and Caucasian populations became Turkish-speaking:

Thus, centuries of Turkic migration and turkification of the region helped to formulate the modern Azerbaijani ethnic group.


Although, "Turkic penetration probably began in the Hunnic era and its aftermath," there is little evidence to indicate, "permanent settlements". The earliest major Turkic incursion began with Mahmud of Ghazni and accelerated during the Seljuk period.pp. 385-386] The migration of Oghuz Turks from present-day Turkmenistan, which is attested by linguistic similarity, remained high through the Mongol period, as many troops under the Ilkhans were Turkic. By the Safavid period, the "Turkification" of Azerbaijan continued with the influence of the Kizilbash. The very name Azerbaijan is derived from the pre-Turkic name of the province, Azarbayjan or Adarbayjan, and illustrates a gradual language shift that took place as local place names survived Turkification, albeit in altered form. [ "The spread of Turkish in Azerbaijan"] , "Encyclopedia Iranica", (retrieved 11 June 2006).]

Most academics view this migration as the most likely source of a Turkic background, but one that most likely involved the "linguistic" Turkification of predominantly non-Turkic-speaking indigenous peoples and assimilation of small bands of Turkic tribes.Dictionary] Altstadt]

There are cultural connections between Azeris and the wider Oghuz Turk populace; the epic literary work the book of Dede Korkut is a treasured heritage shared through Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Azeri's of Iran. In addition to this, the epic of Koroglu is important in Azeri cultre, and some cultural items such as Alpamysh and mythology of the wolf Ashina may also have something in common with Azerbaijan's culture today Fact|date=May 2008. The musical tradition of Ashik/Ozan/Bakshy is popular in Azerbaijan as is the folk music including Türkü style mirroring Turkish folk music.

Iranian origin

The Iranian origins of the Azeris likely derive from ancient Iranic tribes, such as the Medes in Iranian Azarbaijan, and Scythian invaders who arrived during the eighth 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 Persia"] , "Encyclopedia Americana" (retrieved 8 June 2006).] 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:

cquote|"The Persians are a people whose borders are the Mahat Mountains and Azarbaijan 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, Azari, as well as other Persian languages." [ (Al Mas'udi, Kitab al-Tanbih wa-l-Ishraf, De Goeje, M.J. (ed.), Leiden, Brill, 1894, pp. 77-8)]

Scholars see cultural similarities between modern Persians and Azeris as evidence of an ancient Iranian influence. [ "Azerbaijan"] , "Columbia Encyclopedia" (retrieved 8 June 2006).] 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. [ "Various Fire-Temples"] , "University of Calgary" (retrieved 8 June 2006).] It has also been hypothesized that the population of Iranian Azarbaijan 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. [Al-Muqaddasi, "Ahsan al-Taqāsīm", p. 259 & 378, "... the Azerbaijani language is not pretty [...] but their Persian is intelligible, and in articulation it is very similar to the Persian of Khorasan ...", tenth century, Persia (retrieved 18 June 2006).] Other common Perso-Azeribaijani features include Iranian place names such as Tabriz [ "Tabriz"] (retrieved 8 June 2006).] 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." [ [Encyclopaedia Iranica http://www.iranica. com/newsite/ articles/ v13f3/v13f3004a. html] ] The modern presence of the Iranian Talysh and Tats in Azerbaijan is further evidence of the former Iranian character of the region. [ "Report for Talysh"] , "Ethnologue" (retrieved 8 June 2006).] [ "Report for Tats"] , "Ethnologue" (retrieved 8 June 2006).] As a precursor to these modern groups, the ancient Azaris are also hypothesized as ancestors of the modern Azerbaijanis.

Caucasian origin

According to Encyclopedia Britannica about Azeris in the Republic of Azerbaijan:

The Caucasian origin mostly applies to the Azeris of the Caucasus, most of whom are now inhabitants of the Republic of Azerbaijan. There is evidence that, despite repeated invasions and migrations, aboriginal Caucasians may have been culturally assimilated, first by Iranians and later by the Oghuz. Considerable information has been learned about the Caucasian Albanians including their language, history, early conversion to Christianity, and close ties to the Armenians. Many academics believe that the Udi language, still spoken in Azerbaijan, is a remnant of the Albanians' language. [ "The Udi Language"] , "University of Munich", Wolfgang Schulze 2001/2 (retrieved 19 June 2006).] Rare Caucasus Albanian Text]

This Caucasian influence extended further south into Iranian Azarbaijan. During the 1st millennium BCE, another Caucasian people, the Mannaeans ("Mannai") populated much of Iranian Azarbaijan. Weakened by conflicts with the Assyrians, the Mannaeans are believed to have been conquered and assimilated by the Medes by 590 BCE. [ "Mannai"] , "Encyclopedia Britannica" (retrieved 19 June 2006).]


Some new genetic studies suggest that recent erosion of human population structure might not be as important as previously thought, and overall genetic structure of human populations may not change with the immigration events and thus in the Azerbaijani case; the Azeris of Azerbaijan republic most of all genetically resemble other Caucasian people like Armenians [ [ Testing hypotheses of language replacement in the Caucasus] ] and people in the Azarbaijan region of Iran to other Iranians [ [ Is urbanisation scrambling the genetic structure of human populations?] ] .

tudies conducted at Cambridge University

A recent study of the genetic landscape of Iran was completed by a team of Cambridge geneticists led by Dr. Maziar Ashrafian Bonab (an Iranian Azarbaijani). [ "Maziar Ashrafian Bonab"] , "Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge" (retrieved 9 June 2006).] Bonab remarked that his group had done extensive DNA testing on different language groups, including Indo-European and non Indo-European speakers, in Iran. [ "Cambridge Genetic Study of Iran"] , "ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency)", 06-12-2006, news-code: 8503-06068 (retrieved 9 June 2006).] The study found that the Azerbaijanis of Iran do not have a similar FSt and other genetic markers found in Anatolian and European Turks. However, the genetic Fst and other genetic traits like MRca and mtDNA of Iranian Azeris were identical to Persians in Iran.

tudies conducted in the Caucasus

A 2003 study found that: "Y-chromosome haplogroups indicate that Indo-European-speaking Armenians and Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanians (of the Republic of Azerbaijan) are genetically more closely related to their geographic neighbors in the Caucasus than to their linguistic neighbors elsewhere." The authors of this study suggest that this indicates a language replacement of indigenous Caucasian peoples. There is evidence of limited genetic admixture derived from Central Asians (specifically Haplogroup H12), notably the Turkmen, that is higher than that of their neighbors, the Georgians and Armenians. [ "A Genetic Landscape Reshaped by Recent Events: Y-Chromosomal Insights into Central Asia"] , "American Journal of Human Genetics", 71:466-482, 2002 (retrieved 9 June 2006).] MtDNA analysis indicates that the main relationship with Iranians is through a larger West Eurasian group that is secondary to that of the Caucasus, according to a study that did not include Azeris, but Georgians who have clustered with Azeris in other studies. [ "Where West Meets East: The Complex mtDNA Landscape of the Southwest and Central Asian Corridor"] , "American Journal of Human Genetics", 74:827-845, 2004 (retrieved 9 June 2006).] The conclusion from the testing shows that the Caucasian Azeris are a mixed population with relationships, in order of greatest similarity, with the Caucasus, Iranians and Near Easterners, Europeans, and Turkmen. Other genetic analysis of mtDNA and Y-chromosomes indicates that Caucasian populations are genetically intermediate between Europeans and Near Easterners, but that they are more closely related to Near Easterners overall.ibid.] Another study, conducted in 2003 by the "Russian Journal of Genetics", links Iranians in Azerbaijan (the Talysh and Tats) with Turkic Azerbaijanis of the Republic:


Historically the Turkic speakers [ [ Azerbaijani article] , Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.] of Iranian Azerbaijan and the Caucasus called themselves or were referred to by others as Turks and religious identification prevailed over ethnic identification. When Transacaucasia became part of the Russian empire, Russian authorities, who traditionally called all Turkic people Tatars, called Azeris Aderbeijani/Azerbaijani or Caucasian Tatars to distinguish them from other Turkic people, also called Tatars by Russians. [ru icon [ Demoscope Weekly] , alphabetical list of people living in the Russian Empire (1895).] Russian Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary also refers to Azerbaijanis as Aderbeijans in some articles. [ru icon [ Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary. "Turks".] St. Petersburg, Russia, 1890-1907] According to the article Turko-Tatars of the above encyclopedia,

Demographics and society

There are an estimated 24 to 33 million Azerbaijanis in the world, but census figures are difficult to verify. The vast majority live in Azerbaijan and Iranian Azarbaijan. Between 16 and 23 million Azeris live in Iran, mainly in the northwestern provinces. Approximately 7.6 million Azeris are found in the Republic of Azerbaijan. A diaspora, possibly numbering in the millions, is found in neighboring countries and around the world. There are sizable communities in Turkey, Georgia, Russia, USA, Canada, Germany and other countries. [ "Azerbaijani, North: A language of Azerbaijan"] , "Ethnologue report" (retrieved 24 June 2006).]

While population estimates in Azerbaijan are considered reliable due to regular censuses taken, the figures for Iran remain questionable. Since the early twentieth century, successive Iranian governments have avoided publishing statistics on ethnic groups."The State, Religion, and Ethnic Politics: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan" edited by Ali Banuazizi and Myron Weiner, Part II: Iran. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, N.Y. (1988), ISBN 0-8156-2448-4 (retrieved 9 June 2006).] Unofficial population estimates of Azeris in Iran range from 20–24%.ibid.] [ "Ethnische Gruppen"] , "Iranian embassy in Germany" (retrieved 17 June 2006).] However, many Iran scholars, such as Nikki Keddie, Patricia J. Higgins, Shahrough Akhavi, Ali Reza Sheikholeslami, and others, claim that Azeris may comprise as much as one third of Iran's population.Part II: Iran] Shahrough Akhavi, "Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran: Clergy-State Relations in the Pahlavi Period", State University of New York (1980), ISBN 0-87395-456-4 (retrieved 9 June 2006).] Nikki Keddie, "Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution", Yale University Press (2003), ISBN 0-300-09856-1 (retrieved 9 June 2006).]

A large expatriate community of Azerbaijanis is found outside Azerbaijan and Iran. According to Ethnologue, there were over 1 million Azerbaijani-speakers of the north dialect in southern Dagestan, Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as of 1993. [ Report for Azerbaijani, North] , Ethnologue (retrieved 9 June 2006)] Other sources, such as national censuses, confirm the presence of Azeris throughout the former Soviet Union. The Ethnologue figures are outdated in the case of Armenia, where conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has affected the population of Azeris. [ Peace Talks at Key West between Armenia and Azerbaijan] , US State Department, April 3, 2001 (retrieved 9 June 2006).] Ethnologue further reports that an additional 1 million South Azeris live outside Iran, but these figures most likely are a reference to the Iraqi Turkmen, a distinct though related Turkic people.ibid.]

Azeris in Azerbaijan

By far the largest ethnic group in Azerbaijan (over 90%), the Azeris generally tend to dominate most aspects of the country. Unlike most of their ethnic brethren in Iran, the majority of Azeris are secularized from decades of official Soviet atheism. The literacy rate is high, another Soviet legacy, and is estimated at 98.8%. [ "Human Development Index, 12. Literacy and enrolment"] , "Human Development Reports" (retrieved 10 June 2006).] Whereas most urban Azeris are educated, education remains comparatively lower in rural areas. A similar disparity exists with healthcare.

Azeri society has been deeply impacted by the war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which has displaced nearly 1 million Azeris and put strains upon the economy. [ "Caspian Country Rich in Petroleum"] , "The Korea Times" (retrieved 10 June 2006)] Azerbaijan has benefited from the oil industry, but high levels of corruption have prevented greater prosperity for the masses. [ "Report on corruption in Azerbaijan oil industry prepared for EBRD & IFC investigation arms"] , "The Committee of Oil Industry Workers’ Rights Protection", October 2003 (retrieved 10 June 2006).] Many Azeris have grown frustrated over the political process in Azerbaijan as the election of current president Ilham Aliyev has been described as "marred by allegations of corruption and brutal crackdowns on his political opposition". [ "Azerbaijan: A New Muslim Ally for the U.S.?"] , "", May 22, 2006 (retrieved 10 June 2006).] [ "The Crude Doctrine"] , "Mother Jones", July/August, 2004 (retrieved 11 June 2006).] Despite these problems, there is a renaissance in Azerbaijan as positive economic predictions and an active political opposition appear determined to improve the lives of average Azeris. [ "Civil Society, Azerbaijan: Opposition parties prepare to vigorously contest parliamentary election"] ,, 3/28/05 (retrieved 10 June 2006).] The Cultural Renaissance]

Azeris in Iran

Azerbaijanis in Iran are mainly found in the northwest provinces: East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, Ardabil, Zanjan, Kordestan, Qazvin, Hamedan, and Markazi. Many others live in Tehran, Fars Province, and other regions.Azarbaijanis] Generally, Azeris in Iran have been "a well integrated linguistic minority" according to academics such as anthropologist Patricia Higgins.pp.188–191] In fact, until the Pahlavi period in the twentieth century, "the identity of Iran was not exclusively Persian, but supra-ethnic", as much of the political leadership, starting from the eleventh century, had been Turkic.ibid.] The Iranian and Turkic groups were integrated until twentieth century nationalism and communalism began to alter popular perception.Ibid.] 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."ibid.]

Resentment came with Pahlavi policies that suppressed the use of the Azerbaijani language in local government, schools, and the press.Ervand Abrahamian, "Iran between Two Revolutions", Princeton University Press (1982), ISBN 0-691-10134-5 (retrieved 10 June 2006).] 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 Azeri 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.David Menashri, "Shi'ite Leadership: In the Shadow of Conflicting Ideologies", "Iranian Studies", 13:1–4 (1980) (retrieved 10 June 2006).] In May 2006 Iranian Azerbaijan witnessed riots over publication of a cartoon [ [ | Archive Pages ] ] that many Azeris found offensive. [ "Ethnic Tensions Over Cartoon Set Off Riots in Northwest Iran"] , "The New York Times" (retrieved 12 June 2006)] [ "Iran Azeris protest over cartoon"] , BBC News (retrieved 12 June 2006)] The cartoon was drawn by Mana Neyestani, an ethnic Azeri, who was fired along with his editor as a result of the controversy. [ "Cockroach Cartoonist Jailed In Iran"] , "The Comics Reporter", May 24, 2006 (retrieved 15 June 2006)] [ "Iranian paper banned over cartoon"] , "BBC News", May 23, 2006 (retrieved 15 June 2006).] Despite sporadic problems, Azeris are an intrinsic community within Iran. Currently, the living conditions of Azeris in Iran closely resemble that of Persians:

Andrew Burke writes:

Azeris in Iran are in high positions of authority with the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei currently sitting as the Supreme Leader. Azeris in Iran remain quite conservative in comparison to most Azeris in the Republic of Azerbaijan. Nonetheless, since the Republic of Azerbaijan's independence in 1991, there has been renewed interest and contact between Azeris on both sides of the border.


In many respects, Azeris are Eurasian and bi-cultural, as northern Azeris have absorbed Russo-Soviet and Eastern European influences, whereas the Azeris of the south have remained within the Turko-Iranian and Persianate tradition. Modern Azeri culture includes significant achievements in literature, art, music, and film.

Language and literature

The Azerbaijanis speak Azerbaijani (sometimes called Azerbaijani Turkish or Azeri), a Turkic language that is mutually intelligible with Turkish despite minor variations in accent, vocabulary and grammar. Other mutually intelligible Turkic languages include Turkmen and the Turkish spoken by the Turkomans of Iraq and the Qashqai. The Azerbaijani language is descended from the Western Oghuz Turkic language that became established in Azerbaijan in the 11th century CE. Early Oghuz was mainly an oral language. It began to develop as a literary language by the 13th century. [ "x. Azeri Literature in Iran"] , "Encyclopedia Iranica", (retrieved 10 June 2006).] Early oral Azerbaijani, derived from the Oghuz language, began with history recitations ("dastans"), including the "Book of Dede Korkut" and "Koroglu", which contained Turkic mythology. Some of the earliest Azeri writings of the past are traced back to the poet Nasimi (died 1417) and then decades later Fuzûlî (1483–1556). Ismail I, Shah of Safavid Persia wrote Azeri poetry under the pen name "Khatâ'i". Modern Azeri literature continued with a traditional emphasis upon, humanism, as conveyed in the writings of Samad Vurgun, Shahriar, and many others. [ "Contemporary Literature"] , "Azerbaijan International", Spring 1996, (4.1) (retrieved 10 June 2006).]

Azeris are generally bilingual, often fluent in either Russian (in Azerbaijan) or Persian (in Iran). Around 5,000,000 of Azerbaijan's roughly 8,000,000 population speaks Russian. [ru icon [ Global Congress of the Russian-Language Media Opened in Baku Friday] . ""] Moreover, in 1999, around 2,700 Azeris in the Azerbaijan Republic (0.04% of the total Azeri population) reported Russian as their mothertongue. [ru icon [ Ethnic Composition of Azerbaijan] by Arif Yunusov. "". 2004. Retrieved 28 September 2007] An Iranian survey (2002) revealed that 90.0% of the sample household population in Iran is able to speak Persian, 4.6% can only understand it, and 5.4% can neither speak nor understand Persian. Azeri is the most spoken minority language in an Iranian household (24%). [ [] SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS SURVEY OF IRANIAN HOUSEHOLDS (2002)(Amârgiri az vizhegihâ-ye ejtemâ’i eqtesadi-ye khânevâr. Tehran, Markaz-e amâr-e irân, 1382),CNRS, Université Paris III, INaLCO, EPHE,Paris,page 14.]


The majority of Azerbaijanis are Shi'a Muslims. Religious minorities include Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians, Christians and Bahá'ís. Azeris in the Republic of Azerbaijan have an unknown number showing any religious affiliation, since being in a secular country. Many describe themselves as cultural Muslims.Religion] [ "Azerbaijan"] , "US State Department", October 26, 2001 (retrieved 9 June 2006).] Christian Azeris number around 5,000 people in the Republic of Azerbaijan and consist mostly of recent converts. [ [ 5,000 Azeris adopted Christianity] . Published and retrieved 7 July 2007] Some Azeris from rural regions retain pre-Islamic animist beliefs, such as the sanctity of certain sites and the veneration of certain trees and rocks. [ [ Azerbaijan: Culture and Art] . Embassy of the Azerbaijan Republic in the People's Republic of China.] In the Republic of Azerbaijan traditions from other religions are often celebrated in addition to Islamic holidays, including Norouz and Christmas. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijanis have increasingly returned to their Islamic heritage as recent reports indicate that many Azerbaijani youth are being drawn to Islam. [ [ ISN Security Watch - Azerbaijan young increasingly drawn to Islam ] ]

Performance art

Azeris express themselves in a variety of artistic ways including dance, music, and the media. Azeri folk dances are ancient and similar to that of their neighbours in the Caucasus and Iran. The group dance is a common form found from southeastern Europe to the Caspian Sea. In the group dance the performers come together in a semi-circular or circular formation as, "The leader of these dances often executes special figures as well as signaling and changes in the foot patterns, movements, or direction in which the group is moving, often by gesturing with his or her hand, in which a kerchief is held." [ "Avaz"] , "Stanford University Persian Student Association" (retrieved 11 June 2006).] Solitary dances are performed by both men and women and involve subtle hand motions in addition to sequenced steps.

Azeri musical tradition can be traced back to singing bards called "Ashiqs", a vocation that survives to this day. Modern Ashiqs play the saz (lute) and sing "dastans" (historical ballads). [ "Guba"] , "Azerbaijan: The Land of the Arts" (retrieved 11 June 2006).] Other musical instruments include the tar (another type of lute), duduk (a wind instrument), Kamancha (fiddle), and the dhol (drums). Azeri classical music, called "mugham", is often an emotional singing performance. Composers Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Gara Garayev and Fikret Amirov created a hybrid style that combines Western classical music with mugham. Other Azeris, notably Vagif Mustafa Zadeh and Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, mixed jazz with mugham. Some Azeri musicians have received international acclaim, including Rashid Behbudov (who could sing in over eight languages) and Muslim Magomayev (a pop star from the Soviet era). Meanwhile in Iran, Azeri music has taken a different course. According to Iranian Azeri singer Hossein Alizadeh, "Historically in Iran, music faced strong opposition from the religious establishment, forcing it to go underground." [ "Hossein Alizadeh Personal Reflections on Playing Tar"] , "Azerbaijan International", Winter 1997 (retrieved 11 June 2006).] As a result, most Iranian Azeri music is performed outside of Iran amongst exile communities.

Azeri film and television is largely broadcast in Azerbaijan with limited outlets in Iran. Some Azeris have been prolific film-makers, such as Rustam Ibragimbekov, who wrote "Burnt by the Sun", winner of the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1994. Many Iranian Azeris have been prominent in the cinematic tradition of Iran, which has received critical praise since the 1980s.


Sports have historically been an important part of Azeri life. Numerous competitions were conducted on horseback and praised by poets and writers such as Gatran Tabrizi and Nezami Ganjavi. [;jsessionid=1E655D7592184280F9DD0C81FF900935?language=fra "Azerbaijan"] , "Sports history of Azerbaijanis" (retrieved 24 June 2006).] Other ancient sports include wrestling, javelin throwing and ox-wrestling.

The Soviet legacy has in modern times propelled some Azeris to become accomplished athletes at the Olympic level. [;jsessionid=1E655D7592184280F9DD0C81FF900935?language=fra "Azerbaijan"] , "" (retrieved 12 June 2006).] The Azeri government supports the country's athletic legacy and encourages Azeri youth to take part. Football is very popular in both Azerbaijan and Iranian Azarbaijan. There are many prominent Azeri soccer players such as Ali Daei, the world's all-time leading goal scorer in international matches and the former captain of the Iran national soccer team. Azeri athletes have particularly excelled in weight lifting, gymnastics, shooting, javelin throwing, karate, boxing, and wrestling. [ "The Ministry of Youth and Sports"] , "Azerbaijan International", Winter 1996 (retrieved 11 June 2006).] Weight lifters, such as Iran's Hossein Reza Zadeh, world’s super heavyweight lifting record holder and two times Olympic champion in 2000 and 2004 and Nizami Pashayev, who won the European heavyweight title in 2006, have excelled at the international level.

Chess is another popular pastime in Azerbaijan. The country has produced many notable players, such as Teimour Radjabov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, both highly ranked internationally.


Azerbaijan and Iranian Azerbaijan have developed distinct institutions as a result of divergent socio-political evolution. Azerbaijan began the twentieth century with institutions based upon those of Russia and the Soviet Union, with strict state control over most aspects of society. Since, they have moved towards the adoption of Western social models as of the late twentieth century. Since independence, relaxed state controls have allowed local civil society to develop. In contrast, in Iranian Azerbaijan Islamic theocratic institutions dominate nearly all aspects of society, with most political power in the hands of the Supreme Leader of Iran and the Council of Guardians. Yet both societies are in a state of change. In Azerbaijan there is a secular democratic system that is mired in political corruption and charges of election fraud. Azerbaijan's civil society is a work in progress:

Despite these problems Azerbaijan has an active political opposition that seeks more expansive democratic reforms.Opposition parties] Azeris in Iran remain intertwined with the Islamic republic's theocratic regime and lack any significant civil society of a secular nature that can pose a major challenge. There are signs of civil unrest due to the policies of the Iranian government in Iranian Azarbaijan and increased interaction with fellow Azeris in Azerbaijan and satellite broadcasts from Turkey have revived Azeri nationalism. [ "Iranian Azeris: A Giant Minority"] , "Policy Watch/Policy Peace, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy" (retrieved 7 June 2006).]


Azeri females have historically struggled against a legacy of male domination but have made great strides since the twentieth century. In Azerbaijan, women were granted the right to vote in 1919. [ [ "US Suffrage Movement Timeline, 1792 to present"] , Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership (retrieved 19 August 2006)] Women have attained Western-style equality in major cities such as Baku, although in rural areas more traditional views remain. [ "Azerbaijan: Women"] , "OnlineWomen" (retrieved 12 June 2006)] Azerbaijan-The Role of Women] Some problems that are especially prevalent include violence against women, especially in rural areas. Crimes such as rape are severely punished in Azerbaijan, but rarely reported, not unlike other parts of the former Soviet Union. [ "Women's rights in Azerbaijan"] , "OneWomen" (retrieved 12 June 2006)] Azeri women were forced to "give up the veil,""Azeri Women in Transition: Women in Soviet and Post-Soviet Azerbaijan" by Farideh Heyat, ISBN 0-7007-1662-9 (retrieved 13 June 2006).] placing Azerbaijan in sharp contrast with Iranian Azarbajan. Women are underrepresented in elective office but have attained high positions in parliament. An Azeri woman is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Azerbaijan, and two others are Justices of the Constitutional Court. As of 6 November 2005, women constituted 12% of all MPs (fifteen seats in total) in the National Assembly of Azerbaijan. [ [ Gender Panorama: Elections to the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan appointed on November 6, 2005] , Azerbaijan Gender Information Centre (retrieved 3 September 2006.] The Republic of Azerbaijan is also one of the few Muslim countries where abortion is available on demand. [
] (retrieved 25 June 2006) ]

In Iran, the continued unequal treatment of women has been met with increasingly vocal protests, including that of Shirin Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her strong advocacy for women's rights. A groundswell of grassroots movements have emerged seeking gender equality since the 1980s. [ Iran: "Amnesty International calls for action to end discrimination against women"] , "Amnesty International" (retrieved 12 June 2006).] The Sexes] Regular protests take place in defiance of government bans and are often dispersed through violence, as in June 2006 when " [t] housands of women and male supporters came together on June 12 in Haft Tir Square in Tehran" and were dispersed through "brutal suppression". [ "Iran: women's protest brutally attacked"] , "Iranian", Jun 15, 2006 (retrieved 12 June 2006)] Past Iranian leaders, such as Mohammad Khatami, promised women greater rights, but the government has opposed changes that they interpret as contrary to Islamic doctrine. As of 2004, nine Azeri women have been elected to parliament (Majlis) and while most are committed to social change, some represent conservative positions regarding gender issues. [ Iran: "Women's Gains at Risk in Iran's New Parliament"] , "Women's Enews" (retrieved 12 June 2006)] The social fate of Azeri women largely mirrors that of other women in Iran.

ee also

* List of Azerbaijanis
* Azerbaijan
* Iranian Azeris
* Azeris in Georgia
* Azeris in Armenia
* Azeris in Russia
* Azeris in Turkey
* Iranian origin of the Azerbaijanis
* Caucasian origin of the Azerbaijanis
* History of the name Azerbaijan
* Arranis

External links

* [ Embassy of Azerbaijan, Washington DC]
* [ BBC News Europe Country Profile: Azerbaijan]
* [ Encyclopedia of the Orient: Azerbaijan]
* [ The BBC Azeri news site] written in Azeri language.
* [] All About Azerbaijani
* [http://www.vetennamine.comVeten Namine- Independent Political Journal]

Notes and references

* "Important note: population statistics for Azerbaijanis (including those without a notation) in foreign countries were derived from various census counts, the UN, the CIA Factbook, Ethnologue, and the Joshua Project."

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