Greater Iran (in PerB|ایران بزرگ "Irān-e Bozorg", or _fa. ایرانزمین "Irān-zamīn"; the "
Encyclopedia Iranica" uses the term Iranian Cultural Continent [ [http://www.college.columbia.edu/cct/nov03/features5.php www.college.columbia.edu/cct/nov03/features5.php] ] ) refers to the regions that have significant Iranian cultural influence. It roughly corresponds to the territory surrounding the Iranian plateau, stretching from the Caucasusto the Indus River, and conform to the historical understanding of the full territory of "Iran."
Because the concept is a cultural one, representing regions settled by Iranian tribes, it does not correspond to any particular political entity, and—because it represents a late Bronze Age dispersion—predates such political entities by many centuries. For the Sassanids, in whose 3rd century inscriptions the term 'Iran' first appears as a political concept, the multinational Iranian "state" included
Asia Minorbut excluded territories east of the two Iranian salt desert basins. This situation is however reversed in the cultural context, i.e. that of the Iranian " nation".
Iranian plateau, stretching to Central Asia( Bactria) and the Hindukushto the northeast and Afghanistanand Western Pakistanin the southeast and into eastern Syriaand the Caucasusto the northwest.] Traditionally, and until recent times, ethnicity has never been a defining separating criteria in these regions. In the words of Richard Nelson Frye:
Only in modern times did western colonial intervention and ethnicity tend to become a dividing force between the provinces of Greater Iran. As
Patrick Clawsonstates, "ethnic nationalism is largely a nineteenth century phenomenon, even if it is fashionable to retroactively extend it." [ Patrick Clawson. "Eternal Iran". Palgrave Macmillan. 2005 ISBN 1-4039-6276-6 p.23] "Greater Iran" however has been more of a cultural super-state, rather than a political one to begin with. Richard Nelson Fryedefines Greater Iran as including "much of the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, with cultural influences extending to China, western India, and the Semitic speaking world." According to Frye, "Iran means all lands and peoples where Iranian languages were and are spoken, and where in the past, multi-faceted Iranian cultures existed." [Frye, Richard Nelson, "Greater Iran", ISBN 1-56859-177-2 p."xi"]
In the work "Nuzhat al-Qolub" (نزهه القلوب), the medieval geographer
چند شهر است اندر ایران مرتفع تر از همه
"Some cities of Iran are better than the rest,"
بهتر و سازنده تر از خوشی آب و هوا
"these have pleasant and compromising weather,"
گنجه پر گنج در اران صفاهان در عراق
Ganjehof Arran, and Isfahan as well,"
در خراسان مرو و طوس در روم باشد اقسرا
Mervand Tusin Khorasan, and Konya(Aqsara) too."
The "Cambridge History of Iran" takes a geographical approach in referring to the "historical and cultural" entity of "Greater Iran" as "areas of Iran, parts of Afghanistan, and Chinese and Soviet Central Asia". ["The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. III: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods",
Ehsan Yarshater, Review author [s] : Richard N. Frye, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3. (Aug., 1989), pp.415. Link: [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0020-7438%28198908%2921%3A3%3C415%3ATCHOIV%3E2.0.CO%3B2-I] ] A detailed list of these territories follows in this article.
In Persian, Greater Iran is called "Iranzamin" (ایرانزمین) which means "The Land of Iran". "Iranzamin" was in the mythical times opposed to the "Turanzamin" the Land of
Turan, which was located in the upper part of Central Asia. [ Dehkhoda Dictionary, Dehkhoda, see under entry "Turan"]
In the pre-Islamic period, Iranians distinguished two main regions in the territory they ruled, one Iran and the other "Aniran". By Iran they meant all the regions inhabited by
ancient Iranian peoples. That region was much vaster than it is today. This notion of "Iran" as a territory (opposed to "Aniran") can be seen as the core of early Greater Iran. Later many changes occurred in the boundaries and areas where Iranians lived but the languages and culture remained the dominant medium in many parts of the Greater Iran.
As an example, the Persian language was the main literary language and the language of correspondence in
Central Asiaand Caucasus prior to the Russian occupation, Central Asia being the birthplace of modern Persian language. Furthermore, according to the British government, Persian language was also used in Iraqi Kurdistan, prior to the British Occupation and Mandate in 1918-1932 [http://www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk/~siamakr/Kurdish/KURDICA/1999/FEB/Iraq-policy.html] .
Imperial Russiacontinuously advancing south in the course of two wars against Persia, and the treaties of Turkmenchay and Gulistan in the western frontiers, plus the unexpected death of Abbas Mirzain 1823, and the murdering of Persia's Grand Vizier(Mirza AbolQasem Qa'im Maqām), many Central Asian khanates began losing hope for any support from Persia against the Tsarist armies. [Homayoun, N. T., "Kharazm: What do I know about Iran?". 2004. ISBN 964-379-023-1, p.78] The Russian armies occupied the Aralcoast in 1849, Tashkentin 1864, Bukharain 1867, Samarkandin 1868, and Khivaand Amudaryain 1873.
:"Many Iranians consider their natural sphere of influence to extend beyond Iran's present borders. After all, Iran was once much larger. Portuguese forces seized islands and ports in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 19th century, the
Russian Empirewrested from Tehran's control what is today Armenia, Republic of Azerbaijan, and part of Georgia. Iranian elementary school texts teach about the Iranian roots not only of cities like Baku, but also cities further north like Derbentin southern Russia. The Shahlost much of his claim to western Afghanistanfollowing the Anglo-Iranian war of 1856-1857. Only in 1970 did a UNsponsored consultation end Iranian claims to suzeraintyover the Persian Gulfisland nation of Bahrain. In centuries past, Iranian rule once stretched westward into modern Iraqand beyond. When the western world complains of Iranian interference beyond its borders, the Iranian government often convinced itself that it is merely exerting its influence in lands that were once its own. Simultaneously, Iran's losses at the hands of outside powers have contributed to a sense of grievance that continues to the present day." - Patrick Clawsonof the Washington Institute for Near East Policy[ Patrick Clawson. "Eternal Iran". Palgrave. 2005. Coauthored with Michael Rubin. ISBN 1-4039-6276-6 p.9,10]
:"Iran today is just a rump of what it once was. At its height, Iranian rulers controlled
Iraq, Afghanistan, Western Pakistan, much of Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Many Iranians today consider these areas part of a greater Iranian sphere of influence." - Patrick Clawson[ Patrick Clawson. "Eternal Iran". Palgrave. 2005. Coauthored with Michael Rubin. ISBN 1-4039-6276-6 p.30]
:"Since the days of the
Achaemenids, the Iranians had the protection of geography. But high mountains and vast emptiness of the Iranian plateauwere no longer enough to shield Iran from the Russian army or British navy. Both literally, and figuratively, Iran shrank. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Azerbaijan, Armenia, much of Georgia, and Afghanistan were Iranian, but by the end of the century, all this territory had been lost as a result of European military action." [ Patrick Clawson. "Eternal Iran". Palgrave. 2005. Coauthored with Michael Rubin. ISBN 1-4039-6276-6 p.31-32]
Middle Ages, the territory of Greater Iran was known to be composed of two portions: " Persian Iraq" (western portion) and "Khorasan" (eastern portion). The dividing region was mostly along with Gurganand Damaghan cities. Especially the Ghaznavids, Seljuqs and Timurids divided their Empireto Iraqi and Khorasani regions. This point can be observed in many books such as "Tārīkhi Baïhaqī" of Abul Fazl Bayhqi, "Faza'ilul al-anam min rasa'ili hujjat al-Islam" (a collection of letters of Al-Ghazali) and other books. Transoxianaand Chorasmiawere mostly included in the Khorasanian region.
n tribe" (مهد قوم آریا). Today Khwarazm is split between several central Asian republics.
Superimposed on and overlapping with
Chorasmiawas Khorasan which roughly covered nearly the same geographical areas in Central Asia (starting from Semnaneastward through northern Afghanistan roughly until the foothills of Pamir, ancient Mount Imeon). Current day provinces such as Sanjan in Turkmenia, Razavi Khorasan Province, North Khorasan Province, and Southern Khorasan Provincein Iranare all remnants of the old Khorasan. Until the 13th century and the devastating Mongol invasion of the region, Khorasan was considered the cultural capital of Greater Iran. [Lorentz, J. "Historical Dictionary of Iran". 1995. ISBN 0-8108-2994-0]
The national anthem in Tajikistan, "
Surudi Milli", attests to the Perso-Tajik identity, which has seen a large revival, after the breakup of the USSR. Their language is almost identical to that spoken in Afghanistan and Iran, and their cities have Persian names, e.g. Dushanbe, Isfara(Esfarayen), Rasht Valley, Garm, Murghab, Vahdat, Zar-afshan river, Shurab, and Kolyab( [http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/ot_grp8/ot_kulab_20050727.html] ).
Home of the Parthian Empire (Nysa).
Mervis also where the half-Persian caliph al-Mamunmoved his capital to, inorder to move the center of the caliphate away from Arab speaking lands. The city of Eshgh Abad is yet another Persian word meaning "city of love", and like Iran, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan, it was once part of Airyanem Vaejah.
The famous cities of
Afrasiab, Bukhara, Samarkand, Shahrisabz, Andijan, Khiveh, Navā'i, Shirin, Termez, and Zar-afshan are located here. Many experts point to these cities as the birthplace of modern Persian language. The Samanids, who claimed inheritance to the Sassanids, had their capital built here.
ای بخارا شاد باش و دیر زی
Bukhara! Joy to you and live long!
شاه زی تو میهمان آید همی
Your King comes to you in ceremony.
Xinjiangregions of Chinaharbored a Persian population and culture. [See:
Encyclopedia Iranica, p.443 for "Persian settlements in southwestern China"
Iran-China relations" for more links on the historical ties.] Chinese Turkistan & the territory of the Uyghur people was always counted as a part of the Iranian cultural & linguistic continent with Kashgar, Yarkand, Hotan, and Turfanbound to the Iranian history. ["Persian language in Xinjiang" (زبان فارسی در سین کیانگ). Zamir Sa'dollah Zadeh (دکتر ضمیر سعدالله زاده). "Nameh-i Iran" (نامه ایران) V.1. Editor: Hamid Yazdan Parast (حمید یزدان پرست). ISBN 964-423-572-X Perry-Castañeda Librarycollection under DS 266 N336 2005.]
Culturally and historically Kurdistan has been part of what is known as Greater Iran  (or historic Persia)  .Kurds who speak a Northwestern Iranian language known as Kurdish comprise the majority of the population of the region there are also communities of Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Azeri, Jewish, Ossetian, Persian, and Turkic people traditionally scattered throughout the region. Most of its inhabitants are Muslim, but there are also significant numbers of other religious sects such as Yazidi, Yarsan, Alevi, Christian,  Jewish,
The western provinces of modern-day Pakistan, which comprise the
North West Frontier Provinceand Baluchistan are predominantly Iranian-speaking regions where Pashtunsand Baluchiscomprise the majority of the local populations. The Baluch and Pashtun tribes are the easternmost of the Iranic peoples and Baluchistan is the easternmost region of the Iranian plateau.
The Caucasus region
Sassanidremains can be seen up far north as "Darband", now in southern Russia (the words Daghestan, Baku, Ganja, Abseron, and Darband, among others, are both Persian). These parts were mostly annexed by Imperial Russiaover the course of the 18th and 19th centuries (See . yet even today, most of these regions continue to retain their "Greater Persian" identity, as can be seen in their traditions and customs (e.g. Norouz). "For a discussion see [ Encyclopedia Iranica: "Caucasus Iran" article, p.84-96.] ".
Also by the Treaty of Gulistan, Iran had to cede all the Khanates of the
South Caucasus, which included Baku khanate, Shirvan Khanate, Karabakh khanate, Ganja khanate, Shaki Khanate, Quba Khanate, and parts of the Talysh Khanate. Derbent(Darband) was also lost to Russia. These Khanates comprise what is today the Republic of Azerbaijan.By the treaty of Turkmanchay, Iran was forced to cede Nakhichevan khanateand the Mughan regions to Russia, as well as Erivan Khanate. These territories roughly constitute the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijanand Republic of Armenia.
Armeniawas a province of various Persian Empires since the Achaemenidperiod and was heavily influenced by Persian culture. Armenia however, has historically been largely populated by a distinct Indo-European-speaking people who merged with local Caucasian peoples, rather than being directly associated with the Iranian peoples. Ancient Armenian society was a combination of local cultures, Iranian social and political structures, and Hellenic/Christian traditions. [See:
Encyclopedia Iranicap.417-483 for a lengthy discussion on this topic. Link: [http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/sup/Persians_Armenia.html here] ] Due to centuries of independent indigenous development, conquests by western powers including the Romans and Russians, and its diverse diasporic population that has absorbed many cultural traits, especially those of Europeand Lebanon. [http://www.iranchamber.com/people/armenians_in_iran2.php]
Iran continues to have a sizeable Armenian minority that links
Armeniansto Iranian culture. Many Armenians such as Yeprem Khanwere directly involved and remembered in the History of Iran.
Early in antiquity,
Narseh of Persiais known to have had fortifications built here. In later times, some of Persia's literary and intellectual figures from the Qajarperiod have hailed from this region. Also separated from Greater-Iran/Persia in the mid-1800s, by virtue of the Gulistan Treaty and Turkmenchay Treaty.
که تا جایگه یافتی نخچوان
Oh Nakhchivan, respect you've attained,
بدین شاه شد بخت پیرت جوان
With this King in luck you'll remain.
Georgia, or "Gorjestan" was a Persian Province during
Sassanidtimes (particularly starting with Hormozd IV). During the Safavidera, Georgia became so culturally intertwined with Iran that they almost replaced the Qezelbashin the Safavid courts. Persian languagewas even the official administrative language of Georgia in the time of Shah Tahmasb, and Allah-verdi Khan, whom the famous landmark of 33 polin Isfahan is named after, was among the Georgian elite that were involved in the Safavid government. And Amin al-Sultan, Prime Minister of Iran, was the son of a Georgian father. [Patrick Clawson. Eternal Iran. Palgrave. 2005. Coauthored with Michael Rubin. ISBN 1-4039-6276-6 p.168] Georgia was again a direct province of Persia from 1629 until 1762 when the Russian influence arrived.
The aforementioned is especially true of "Eastern Georgia". Eastern Georgia historically was attached to the south for support, as opposed to Western Georgia, which looked for help to the North. The city of "Teflis" (
Tbilisiin Georgian) was Persianized for quite some time. The Qajarid heir to the throne prince Abbas Mirzaspent much time there.
Due to the
Treaty of Gulistan, Iran was forced to cede to Russia all the cities, towns, and villages of Georgia, including regions on the Black Sea coast, such as Megrelia, Abkhazia, Imeretia, and Guria.
For a lengthy discussion, see [http://www.iranica.com/articles/v10f5/v10f504a.html Gorjestan] .
At times, Greater Iran also included
Iraq, as it is where the Sassanidcapital was located ( Ctesiphon). There are still cities and provinces in contemporary Iraq where the Persian names of the city are still retained. e.g. al-Anbar or Baghdad. Other cities of Iraq with originally Persian names include "Nokard" (نوكرد) --> al-Haditha, "Suristan" (سورستان) --> Kufa, "Shahrban" (شهربان) --> Miqdadiya, "Arvandrud" (اروندرود)--> Shatt al-Arab, and "Asheb" (آشب) --> Imadiyya. [See: محمدی ملایری، محمد: فرهنگ ایران در دوران انتقال از عصر ساسانی به عصر اسلامی، جلد دوم: دل ایرانشهر، تهران، انتشارات توس 1375.: Mohammadi Malayeri, M.: Del-e Iranshahr, vol. II, Tehran 1375 Hs.] Patrick Clawsonverifies this:
:"Arab nationalists may seek retroactively to extend the present into the past, but this skews reality. Iranian domains once extended well into what is now Iraq. The first Sassanian capital was at Ctesiphon, 21 miles southeast of Baghdad." [
Patrick Clawson. "Eternal Iran". Palgrave Macmillan. 2005. ISBN 1-4039-6276-6,]
Even after Iraq was Arabized during the Islamic conquests of the 7th century, the Persian presence was still quite recognizeable and dominant at times, as many famous Persian
Shiaclerics are buried in Najafand Karbala. At the latest, the Safavids lost control of these areas to the Ottoman Empire.
*1639 Treaty of Zuhab: Iran formally transfers
Baghdadand modern Iraq to the Ottoman Empire.
*1813 Gulestan Treaty: Iran gives up claims over large areas in the Caucasus.
*1828 Turkmenchay Treaty: Signed by
Fath Ali Shah. Russia gains sovereignty over the Caucasus.
1857 Paris Treaty: Signed by Nasereddin Shah. Iran loses Heratand parts of Afghanistan in exchange for the evacuation of Iran's southern ports by Great Britain.
*1881 Akhal Treaty: Signed by
Nasereddin Shah. Iran loses Mervand parts of Khwarazmiain exchange for security guarantees from Russia.
*1893: Iran transfers to Russia additional regions near the
Atrek Riverthat were Iranian under the Akhal Treaty. This treaty was signed by General Boutsoff and "Mirza Ali Asghar Amin al-Sultan" on May 27, 1893.
*1907: Persia was to be carved up into three regions, according to the
Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907.
*1970: Iran abandons sovereignty rights over
Bahrainto Great Britainin exchange for Greater and Lesser Tunbsand Abu Musaislands in the Persian Gulf.
*"Ethnic Identity in Iran" by
Richard Nelson Frye, JSAI 26, 2002, see p.82 [http://www.azargoshnasp.net/Iran/ethnicidentityinIranfrye.pdf]
* [http://www.college.columbia.edu/cct/nov03/features5.php "Columbia College Today" on "Iranian Cultural Continent"]
Culture of Iran
History of Iran
History of Afghanistan
History of Pakistan
List of Persia-related topics
List of Irredentist states
List of Persian Kings
*Capitals of Greater Iran
Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex
* [http://www.marzeporgohar.org/index.php?l=1&cat=22&scat=&artid=670 A map of the treaties affecting Greater Iran]
* [http://www.iranian.com/Kasraie/2005/February/Iran/ Article on Iranian.com]
* [http://www.iranian.com/Letters/2000/August/chinese.html Persians in China]
* [http://www.iranian.com/History/2000/August/China/ Pirooz in China]
* [http://iranema-online.org/talk/files/003855.php Interview: where "Iran e Bozrorg" is discussed] [http://www.peikekhabari.com/A-Panahandeh5.htm (2)] [http://www.savepasargad.com/1.Far/News/niasara2.htm (3)]
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