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We have chosen to start the week dedicated to Nowruz with the theme of abundance, what better occasion to talk about the peoples of Iran? In fact, this legendary town gathers 21 different populations inside, a slap to those who fear the invasion of “other cultures”.
The peoples of Iran
Surprised? Since ancient times, Iran has been a place of refuge for many different populations, from the most varied and disparate origins. Some fled persecution, others came from conquerors, and still others simply lived in those places. It is precisely from this group that we will start, or the so-called “Iranian populations”, a family which includes 8 different families. There are in fact: the Persians, who alone make up about 61% of the entire country, the Kurds, the Mazandarans, the Gilachi, the Lur, the Bakhtiari (considered a subgroup of the Lur), the Talysh, the Tati and the Baluci.
These populations have ancient origins and many of these opposed Alexander the Great in his legendary ride to the East. Each of these jealously guards the treasures of their ancestors, keeping intact a cultural heritage of extraordinary importance and unique in the world. Just think of peoples such as Gilachi and Mazandarani, who, although always part of Persian history, never wanted to join them completely, too proud of their origins. The human presence in the Gilan and Mazandaran regions is in fact traced back as far as 75,000 years ago, too much to detach from it.
Another population that should not be overlooked are the Lur, who, alone, are the 4th ethnic group in the country after Persians, Kurds and Azeris. They live in the southeast regions and are believed to descend from the Cassites and Gutei, populations that invaded Babylon in the 16th century BC. It is believed, in particular, that the Lur are related to the Kurds, from whom they separated 10,000 years ago. The Bakhtiari are a subgroup of the latter, to whom a legendary descent with King Fereydun is attributed, a key figure in Persian mythology.
The Turkic peoples
The region was often crossed by Turkic populations, who, through the Qajar lineage, dominated Iran until 1925, being ousted only after the events following the First World War. For this reason, Persia has seen many Turkic ethnic groups settle in the region over time: Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Qashqai, Khoresan Turks, Afshari and Karai.
The Azeris, in particular, are the second ethnic group in the country and their contribution to local cultural history has been of great impact, especially as regards music. Some of the instruments still used in Europe and the Middle East in fact descend from those of this people, just think of the kamancheh, ancestor of the guitar and violin, the result of Azerbaijani art.
The Semitic and Caucasian peoples
Given its proximity to Iraq and its thousand-year history, Iran also hosts small communities of Semitic populations, such as: Arabs, who alone only 2%, Jews, Assyrians and Mandei. The latter 2 represent perhaps some of the most interesting realities of the entire region. The former are actually the descendants of the Assyrians of whom we read at school, the latter are the last religious community of Gnostic origin in the world.
The fourth group of peoples inhabiting Iran is that of the Caucasian populations, that is: Armenians, who are the largest Christian community in the country, Georgians, who are here mostly Shiites, and Circassians, always known for their beauty
Sorry if we have not yet released our “explanation” of the week but we have run out of time, we will write you all on social media tonight. Cover photo by Andrea Ricordi, author of the Iranweb page. Follow us on our facebook, YouTube and Instagram page, every like, sharing or support is welcome and helps us to dedicate ourselves more and more to our passion: telling the Middle East.