Origin of the Azerbaijanis

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The Azerbaijani are of mixed ethnic origin, the oldest element deriving from the indigenous population of eastern Transcaucasia and possibly from the Medians of northern Persia. This population was Persianized during the period of the Sassanian dynasty of Iran (3rd–7th century CE). Turkification of the population can be dated from the region’s conquest by the Seljuq Turks in the 11th century and the continued influx of Turkic populations in subsequent centuries, including those groups that migrated during the Mongol conquests in the 13th century. (The greater portion of the tribes that formed the Mongol forces or were stimulated by the Mongol conquest to migrate were Turkic.)[1]

Caucasian substrate[edit]

The Caucasian origin of the Azerbaijanis defines a link between Azeris and their pre-Turkification Caucasian past and mostly applies to the Azeris of the Caucasus, most of whom are now inhabitants of what is now the Republic of Azerbaijan. There is evidence that, despite repeated invasions and migrations, aboriginal Caucasians may have been culturally assimilated, first by Iranians, such as the Alans, and later by the Oghuz Turks. 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.[2]

This Caucasian influence extended further south into Iranian Azarbaijan. During the 1st millennium BCE, another Caucasian people, the Mannaeans (Mannai) populated much of this area. This ancient country was in northwestern Iran, south of Lake Urmia. During the period of its existence in the early 1st millennium bc, Mannai was surrounded by three major powers: Assyria, Urartu, and Media. With the intrusion of the Scythians and the rise of the Medes in the 7th century, the Manneans lost their identity and were subsumed under the term Medes.[3]

Genetic testing[edit]

Although genetic testing demonstrates primarily the Turkification of the region rather than that the Azerbaijani Turks are descendants of migrants from Central Asia, it does however show that the region is a genetically mixed one. Though the population of Azerbaijan is culturally diverse, genetic testing has revealed common genetic markers that support an autochthonous background for most Azerbaijani Turks. There is evidence of genetic admixture derived from Central Asians (specifically Haplogroup H12), notably the Turkmen, that is higher than that of their neighbors, the Georgians and Armenians.[4] 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 Azerbaijani Turks, but Georgians who have clustered with Azerbaijani Turks in other studies.[5] The conclusion from the testing shows that the Azerbaijani Turks of the republic 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.[6]
Another study, conducted in 2003 by the Russian Journal of Genetics, compared Iranian-language speakers of the Republic of Azerbaijan (the Talysh and Tats) with Turkic Azerbaijanis and found that the genetic structure of those populations, compared with the other Iranian-speaking populations (Persians from Iran, Ossetins, and Tajiks), was closer to Turkic Azerbaijanis than to Iranian-speaking populations elsewhere.[7][8]

In 2006 M. Regueiro and A.M. Cadenas of Stanford University show that the population of central Iran (Isfahan) group to Caucasian Azeri people more than population of Turkey in terms of haplogroup distributions and genetic homogeneity.[9]

Genetic testing has also revealed Azeri population of Iran group more with other Iranian peoples[10] especially with central Iranian people of Isfahan[9] and Azeri population from the Republic of Azerbaijan group more with Caucasian people and people of central Iran.

Iranian substrate[edit]

The Iranian origin of the Azeris defines a link between present-day Azeris and their pre-Turkification Iranian past and mostly applies to Iranian Azeris. It is supported by historical accounts, by the existence of the Old Azari language, present day place names, cultural similarities between Iranian peoples and Azeris, and archaeological and ethnical evidence. It is also favored by notable scholars and sources, such as Vladimir Minorsky, Richard Frye, Xavier De Planhol, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Encyclopædia Iranica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Grand Dictionnaire Encyclopedique Larousse, and World Book Encyclopedia.

Historical accounts and the ancient Azari language[edit]

According to Vladimir Minorsky, around the 9th and 10th centuries:

Professor Ighrar Aliyev also mentions that the Arab historians Baladhuri, Masudi, Ibn Hawqal and Yaqut have mentioned this language by name.[12] Medieval historians and scholars also record that the language of the region of Azerbaijan, as well as its people there, as Iranians who spoke Iranian languages. Among these writes are Al-Istakhri, Al-Masudi, Ibn al-Nadim, Hamzeh Esfahani, Ibn Hawqal, Al-Baladhuri, Moqaddasi, Yaghubi, Hamdallah Mostowfi, and Al-Khwarizmi.[13]

Ebn al-Moqaffa’ (d. 142/759) is quoted by ibn Al-Nadim in his famous Al-Fihrist as stating that Azerbaijan, Nahavand, Rayy, Hamadan and Esfahan speak Pahlavi (Fahlavi) and collectively constitute the region of Fahlah.[14]

A very similar statement is given by the medieval historian Hamzeh Isfahani when talking about Sassanid Iran. Hamzeh Isfahani writes in the book Al-Tanbih ‘ala Hoduth alTashif that five "tongues" or dialects, were common in Sassanian Iran: Pahlavi (Fahlavi), Dari, Parsi (Farsi), Khuzi and Soryani. Hamzeh (893-961 A.D.) explains these dialects in the following way:

Ibn Hawqal states:

It should be noted that Ibn Hawqal mentions that some areas of Armenia are controlled by Muslims and others by Christians.[17]

Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn Al-Masudi (896-956), the Arab historian states:

Al-Moqaddasi (died late 4th century AH/10th century AD) considers Azerbaijan as part of the 8th division of lands. He states: "The languages of the 8th division is Iranian (al-‘ajamyya). It is partly partly Dari and partly convoluted (monqaleq) and all of them are named Persian".[19]

Al-Moqaddasi also writes on the general region of Armenia, Arran and Azerbaijan and states:

Ahmad ibn Yaqubi mentions that the "People of Azerbaijan are a mixture of ‘Ajam-i Azari (Ajam is a term that developed to mean Iranian) of Azaris and old Javedanis (followers of Javidan the son of Shahrak who was the leader of Khurramites and successed by Babak Khorramdin)."[21]

Zakarrya b. Moháammad Qazvini's report in Athar al-Bilad, composed in 674/1275, that "no town has escaped being taken over by the Turks except Tabriz" (Beirut ed., 1960, p. 339) one may infer that at least Tabriz had remained aloof from the influence of Turkish until the time.[22]

From the time of the Mongol invasion, most of whose armies were composed of Turkic tribes, the influence of Turkish increased in the region. On the other hand, the old Iranian dialects remained prevalent in major cities. Hamdallah Mostawafi writing in the 1340s calls the language of Maraqa as "modified Pahlavi"(Pahlavi-ye Mughayyar). Mostowafi calls the language of Zanjan (Pahlavi-ye Raast). The language of Gushtaspi covering the Caspian border region between Gilan to Shirvan is called a Pahlavi language close to the language of Gilan.[23]

Even after the Turkic invasions and subsequent Turkification of the area, which lasted several centuries, travelers and scholars cited Persian being used up to the 17th century in Tabriz. Even the Ottoman Turkish explorer Evliya Çelebi (1611–1682) mentions this in his Seyahatname. He also reports that the elite and learned people of Nakhichevan and Maragheh spoke Pahlavi, during his tours of the region. Additionally, the old Pahlavi-based language of Azerbaijan is now extinct.

Also, the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, published in 1890, writes that Azeri's are only linguistically Turkic and Iranians by race:

The book Man, published in 1901, comes to the same conclusion:

Modern Opinions[edit]

Professor Richard Frye also states:

Moreover, according to Grand Dictionnaire Encyclopedique Larousse:

According to Professor Vladimir Minorsky:

According to Professor Xavier De Planhol:

and

Prof. Gernot Windfuhr states:

According to Professor. Tadeusz Swietochowski:

The Encyclopædia Britannica states:

Place names, culture, and archaeological evidence[edit]

Many place names in the present day Republic of Azerbaijan and Iranian Azarbaijan have Persian roots. Tabriz, Baku, Absheron, Ganja, and the country (as well as people) name itself Azerbaijan, are just a few examples. Also, many of the cities in these regions were founded before Turkic tribes reached the area. The first mention of Baku was in 885, before the Turkic invasions of the 10th and 11th centuries.

Archaeological evidence discovered in these regions show a large Zoroastrian, a monotheistic Iranian religion, influence along with an Iranian presence of more than 3000 years, starting with the settlement of the Medes in the area, both of which shaped the Iranian identity of the region that lasted until the Turkic invasions.[33] However, no evidence has been discovered that the Huns ever created permanent settlements in the area, as some Turkish historians claim.[34]

Scholars see cultural similarities between modern Persians and Azeris as evidence of an ancient Iranian influence.[35] Azeri's celebrate a number of Iranian holidays, most notably Norouz. Researchers also describe the lives of Azeri villagers and Persian villagers to be very similar in terms of tradition and culture. The literature of the region was also written in Persian, with writers such as Qatran Tabrizi, Shams Tabrizi, Nezami, and Khaghani, writing in Persian prior to and during the Oghuz invasions.

Also, remnants of former Iranian tribes that survived Turkification also provides evidence of the Iranian character of Azeri's. The Talyshs and Tats are both an Iranian people who speak Iranian languages, with Tats speaking a dialect of Persian.[36][37]

Genetics and physical appearance[edit]

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).[38] Bonab remarked that his group had done extensive DNA testing on different language groups, including Indo-European and non Indo-European speakers, in Iran.[10] The study found that the Azeris 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. 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 Azerbaijanis' case; the Azeris of the Azerbaijan Republic most of all genetically resemble to other Caucasian people like Armenians,[39] and people the Azarbaijan region of Iran to other Iranians.[40]

Opposition[edit]

Although Genetic testing proves the Turkification of the region rather than Azeris being of Turkic stock, it also shows that the region is a mixed one. Though the population of Azerbaijan is culturally diverse, genetic testing has revealed common genetic markers that support an autochthonous background for most Azeris. A 2002 study found that: "Y-chromosome haplogroups indicate that Indo-European-speaking Armenians and Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanians from the republic are genetically more closely related to their geographic neighbors in the Caucasus than to their linguistic neighbors elsewhere."[4] 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.[4] 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.[5] The conclusion from the testing shows that the 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.[6] Another study, conducted in 2003 by the Russian Journal of Genetics, compared Iranian-language speakers in Azerbaijan (the Talysh and Tats) with Turkic-language Azerbaijanis and found that,

Ancient historians, including Herodotus, Polybius and Strabo, mention the region as a mixed one, with Iranian and non-Iranian groups, such as the Utii, a Caucasian group that still exists in Azerbaijan.[41]

Oghuz arrival[edit]

Main articles: Turkic migration and Oghuz Turks

Ibn al-Athir, an Arab historian, declared that the Oghuz Turks had come to Transoxiana in the period of the caliph Al-Mahdi in the years between 775 and 785. In the period of the Abbasid caliph Al-Ma'mun (813 – 833), the name Oghuz starts to appear in the works of Islamic writers. By 780, the eastern parts of the Syr Darya were ruled by the Karluk Turks and the western region (Oghuz steppe) was ruled by the Oghuz Turks.

Oghuz dominance in Southwestern Asia begins in the 11th century, with the Seljuk Empire. The Southwestern Turkic dialects gradually supplanted the Tat, Azari, and Middle Persian dialects in northern Iran, and a variety of Caucasian languages in the Caucasus, particularly Udi, and had become the dominant during the High to Late Medieval period, under the rule of the White Sheep Turkomans and Black Sheep Turkomans (14th to 15th centuries), the process of Turkification being mostly complete by the Safavid period (16th century).

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Azerbaijani" - Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ "The Udi Language", University of Munich, Wolfgang Schulze 2001/2 (retrieved 19 June 2006).
  3. ^ "Mannai", Encyclopædia Britannica (retrieved 07 September 2011).
  4. ^ a b c 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)
  5. ^ a b 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)
  6. ^ a b Ibid.
  7. ^ a b Genetic Structure of Iranian-Speaking Populations from Azerbaijan Inferred from the Frequencies of Immunological and Biochemical Gene Markers — Russian Journal of Genetics, Volume 39, Number 11, November 2003, pp. 1334-1342(9) (retrieved 9 June 2006)
  8. ^ http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FB%3ARUGE.0000004149.62114.92
  9. ^ a b Iran: Tricontinental Nexus for Y-Chromosome Driven Migration - Hum Hered 2006;61:132–143 (retrieved 13 April 2011)
  10. ^ a b "Cambridge Genetic Study of Iran"
  11. ^ V. Minorsky, Studies in Caucasian History, Cambridge University Press, 1957, p. 112
  12. ^ Professor Ighrar Aliyev. The History of Aturpatakan. Persian Translation by Dr. Shaadman Yusuf. Balkh Publishers. Tehran. 1999.
  13. ^ "Azari: The Iranian Language of Azerbaijan" in Encyclopedia Iranica by E. Yarshater
  14. ^ Ibn Nadeem, "Fihrist", Translated by Reza Tajaddod, Ibn Sina publishers, 1967. ابن نديم در الفهرست مي‌نويسد: (= اما فهلوي منسوب است به فهله كه نام نهاده شده است بر پنج شهر: اصفهان و ري و همدان و ماه نهاوند و آذربايجان. و دري لغت شهرهاي مداين است و درباريان پادشاه بدان زبان سخن مي‌گفتند و منسوب است به مردم دربار و لغت اهل خراسان و مشرق و لغت مردم بلخ بر آن زبان غالب است. اما فارسي كلامي است كه موبدان و علما و مانند ايشان بدان سخن گويند و آن زبان مردم اهل فارس باشد. اما خوزي زباني است كه ملوك و اشراف در خلوت و مواضع لعب و لذت با نديمان و حاشيت خود گفت‌وگو كنند. اما سرياني آن است كه مردم سواد بدان سخن رانند). ابن ندیم، محمد بن اسحاق: «فهرست»، ترجمه‌ي رضا تجدد، انتشارات ابن سینا، 1346 Original Arabic. Ibn Nadeem, Al-Fihrist. www.alwaraq.com accessed in September, 2007. فأما الفهلوية فمنسوب إلى فهله اسم يقع على خمسة بلدان وهي أصفهان والري وهمدان وماه نهاوند وأذربيجان وأما الدرية فلغة مدن المدائن وبها كان يتكلم من بباب الملك وهي منسوبة إلى حاضرة الباب والغالب عليها من لغة أهل خراسان والمشرق و اللغة أهل بلخ وأما الفارسية فتكلم بها الموابدة والعلماء وأشباههم وهي لغة أهل فارس وأما الخوزية فبها كان يتكلم الملوك والأشراف في الخلوة ومواضع اللعب واللذة ومع الحاشية وأما السريانية فكان يتكلم بها أهل السواد والمكاتبة في نوع من اللغة بالسرياني فارسي
  15. ^ (Mehdi Marashi, Mohammad Ali Jazayery, Persian Studies in North America: Studies in Honor of Mohammad Ali Jazayery, Ibex Publishers, Inc, 1994. p 255)
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  18. ^ (Al Mas'udi, Kitab al-Tanbih wa-l-Ishraf, De Goeje, M.J. (ed.), Leiden, Brill, 1894, pp. 77-8). Original Arabic from www.alwaraq.net: فالفرس أمة حد بلادها الجبال من الماهات وغيرها وآذربيجان إلى ما يلي بلاد أرمينية وأران والبيلقان إلى دربند وهو الباب والأبواب والري وطبرستن والمسقط والشابران وجرجان وابرشهر، وهي نيسابور، وهراة ومرو وغير ذلك من بلاد خراسان وسجستان وكرمان وفارس والأهواز، وما اتصل بذلك من أرض الأعاجم في هذا الوقت وكل هذه البلاد كانت مملكة واحدة ملكها ملك واحد ولسانها واحد، إلا أنهم كانوا يتباينون في شيء يسير من اللغات وذلك أن اللغة إنما تكون واحدة بأن تكون حروفها التي تكتب واحدة وتأليف حروفها تأليف واحد، وإن اختلفت بعد ذلك في سائر الأشياء الأخر كالفهلوية والدرية والآذرية وغيرها من لغات الفرس.
  19. ^ Al-Moqaddasi, Shams ad-Din Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Ahmad, Ahsan al-Taqasi fi Ma’rifa al-Aqalim, Translated by Ali Naqi Vaziri, Volume one, First Edition, Mu’alifan and Mutarjiman Publishers, Iran, 1981, p 377 المقدسي، شمس‌الدين ابوعبدالله محمدبن احمد، احسن التقاسيم في معرفه الاقاليم، ترجمه دكتر علينقي وزيري، جلد 1، چاپ اول، انتشارات مؤلفان و مترجمان ايران، 1361، ص 377.
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  29. ^ [1] (Encyclopædia Iranica)
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  31. ^ Azerbaijan:Historical Background Vol. 3, Colliers Encyclopedia CD-ROM, 02-28-1996
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  33. ^ "Various Fire-Temples" - University of Calgary (retrieved 8 June 2006).
  34. ^ pp. 385-386
  35. ^ "Azerbaijan" - Columbia Encyclopedia (retrieved 8 June 2006).
  36. ^ "Report for Talysh"Ethnologue (retrieved 8 June 2006).
  37. ^ "Report for Tats"Ethnologue (retrieved 8 June 2006).
  38. ^ "Maziar Ashrafian Bonab"Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge (retrieved 9 June 2006)
  39. ^ Testing hypotheses of language replacement in the Caucasus
  40. ^ Is urbanisation scrambling the genetic structure of human populations?
  41. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume V18, Page 22)

See also[edit]