Peoples of Iran: historical perspective

Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, TRT
Peoples of Iran: historical perspective

The relations between Turkey and Iran have determined the image of the Middle East, including the Caucasus, for centuries. Iran is a homeland for not only Persians, but also Iranian Turks and other peoples who have lived there for centuries. It is clear that Iran's prosperity means the prosperity of all its peoples. Today's geopolitical developments in the region are largely the result of historical, cultural and human relations between the two countries. To find the answer to many topical current issues, it is necessary to step back in history of the relations between the two countries.

Since ancient times Iran has been inhabited by various nations. Today, out of the 74 million population of Iran, 33 million are Turks, who are better known as Iranian Azerbaijanis, many of whom retain their historical foundations, customs and traditions. These might include multi-million communities of Turkmens, Qajars, Qarapapaqs, Qashqai and Shahsevan peoples, which live in northern Iran, in the large cities of Tabriz, Ardabil, Urmia and Khoy, and who participated in the construction of Iranian statehood throughout the centuries together with Persians. The Turkic element has been a fundamental factor in the system of the Iranian state for many centuries and in many respects continues to have a crucial role in public education. Today, a significant part of high state posts belong to ethnic Azerbaijanis, in particular the supreme spiritual leader of Iran Ali Khamenei. All Iranian presidents and supreme leaders have always demonstrated knowledge of Azerbaijani language to ensure success among the largest ethnic minority.

The Azerbaijani variant of Turkic language, along with Farsi, remains the language of communication between the Iranian population. The overwhelming majority of the population speaks Persian and Azerbaijani. Until recently, the largest community in Iran did not have the opportunity to receive education in their native language. However, recently it comes to introducing of the subject 'Azerbaijani language and literature' in the universities. The opening of schools which offer tuition in Azerbaijani language still provokes a passionate debate and continues to be a stumbling block for the residents of the north-west of the country with predominantly the Turks and the Iranian government. It is interesting that, having no means to get education in their native language, the Iranian Turks retain their ethnic and linguistic flavor. Iran has good-neighborly relations with both Azerbaijan and Turkey. Baku and Ankara welcome all the reforms aimed at developing Iran. There is a visa-free regime between Turkey and Iran, and the Iranian Turks consider Turkey as a bridge to Europe.

Vetsnik Kavkaza tells about all the twists and turns of developments in the region and the relations between the two countries in its own translation of the documentary film shot by the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT).

The relations between Turkey and Iran go back thousands of years. Did you know that Turkic dynasties ruled in Iran from the 10th century to the 12th century? Today, millions of Turks live in Iran, which prompts the reasonable question of how Persian and Turkish languages ​​influence each other. The history of relations between the Turks and Iran has started in the 1st century. It is well known that in the 3rd century Turkic tribes of the Huns began their campaigns into Iran and actively started inhabiting the territory of the present-day southern Azerbaijan or the northern part of Iran. Further, led by the Kok Turks (noble clan of the Turkic Kaganates), Avars, Khazars, Pechenegs and many other Turkic tribes settled in the northern regions of Iran. The Sajid dynasty (Sacoğulları) became the first Turkic rulers of Iran in the 10th century, which have created their state in the territory of present Azerbaijan and Iran. Since that time, Iran has been ruled by Turkic dynasties for a thousands years.

Dr. Sadi Kucur of the Marmara University says: "At the end of the 10th century, the Turkic Ghaznavid dynasty based its state on the territory of present-day Afghanistan and Iran. Due to lack of pasture, Turkic tribes began to migrate from Central Asia to the south, as a result of which, the Great Seljuk Empire emerged on the world stage. They captured Khorasan, one of the main centers of Ghaznavids and the Middle East of that time. For the first time after the Sasanian Empire, Iran became part of the Seljuk Empire in the 10th century. From the mid-10th century and until 1925 Iran was mostly ruled by Turks and the strongest was the Seljuk dynasty, originated from the Qynyk branch of the Oghuz Turks, belonging to the Western Turks".

Having conquered Khorasan, the Seljuk dynasty also annexed other large cities of Ghaznavids - Nishapur, Merv and Herat. The Seljuk dynasty's military successes caused new flows of migration of Turkic tribes to the territory of Iran.

Dr. Osman Ozgudenli of the Marmara University said: "Since Ghaznavids, Seljuks, Harezmshahs, the rulers of Akkoyunlu, Karakoyunlu, Safavid dynasty, Afshar and finally Qajar dynasty were the largest Turkic states during ten centuries, owning territories within Iran's geography. Before the Battle of Chaldiran (1514) between the Ottomans and Safavids, the relations between Turks and Iran had been developing in a positive manner, but after this battle it acquired negative tendency.’’

Synthesis of Turkish and Iranian cultures gave the Iranian cities new architectural look, having turned them into centers of science. An example of such city is Isfahan. After the city became the new capital of the state, the Seljuks named it Nesf-e Jehan, which means ‘Half of the World’. The grand Jami Mosque was built by the Seljuks and became one of the largest religious buildings in the Islamic world in the Middle Ages. It is the best example of Seljuk culture.

At the time of the Seljuks, the economic growth began in Iran, medicine and education began to develop. The first Seljuk hospital was built in the city of Nishapur during the reign of Nizam-ul-Mylk.

According to Dr. Sadi Kucur, during the Nizam-ul-Mylk’s reign madrasas were built in the 20 cities of Iran. They were known as Nizamiyye  in the East: "These madrassas also became a major haven for Sunni Islam and played a big role in spreading this trend in the East.’’

For centuries Turkic and Persian languages ​​enriched each other. "Since the time of the Seljuks, Persian became Iran’s official language. Anatolian Turks also used Persian as the official language. In the Ottoman Empire, Persian was also the language of literature. During the reign of the Mongols, Farsi was used along with Turkic. Already during the reign of dynasties of Akkoyunlu, Karakoyunlu, and Safavids, Turkic became the official language in Iran. The collection of poems by the ruler of Karakoyunlu, Jahan Shah, as well as the collection of the founder of the Savafid Empire, Shah Ismail Khatai, are the examples of Turkic first became widely used in official documents and literature of Iran, " Professor Ozgudenli said.

During the reign of the Ottomans, the Iranian-Turkic relations developed in a friendly manner.

Professor Kucur noted that during the reign of the Safevids, the Ottomans sometimes led the political struggle, but it was not aggressive before the Battle of Chaldiran.

In turn, Professor Zekeriyya Kurshun of the Marmara University believes that the further relations between the Ottomans and Iran in many respects were influenced by the Battle of Chaldiran under the rule of Ottoman Yavuz Selim. "But after the Chaldyran battle, we did not see any deep crisis, which is discussed so much, the battle briefly increased aggression between the countries. We can not say that a major rift accrued between the countries, except for the fact that Tabriz  became a part of the Ottoman Empire for a short time. Afterwards, those relations developed in a normal way, " the scientist noted.

Shia Iranians, who lived in the Ottoman Empire, were allowed to open their chapels and schools. According to Zekeriyya Kurshun, one of the main components, to which it is worth paying attention analyzing mutual relations of the Ottoman state and Iran, is how the rulers and peoples of the both states perceived each other. "For the Ottomans, Iran was one of their Turkic states, because the Turkic dynasties ruled there. In turn, for Iranians, the Ottoman state was of religious significance, because there were the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. These factors were of great importance in the relations between these countries’’, the scientist believes. There were a lot of Iranian Turks living in Anatolia, and the Ottoman government treated them like their own citizens. "They were allowed to trade, open hospitals, their schools and also chapels. In this regard, the Iranian mosque in the town of Validekhan in Istanbul and the 19th century mosque in Uskudar are great examples, " the scientist said.

Today, Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan demonstrate desire for close cooperation. Experts even talk about a creation of the Tehran-Ankara-Baku axis, which relies on stable relations.