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Greater Persia

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Greater Persia

History of Greater Iran
Until the rise of modern nation-states

Greater Iran (in Persian: ایرانِ بُزُرگIrān-e Bozorg, or ایران زَمین Irānzamīn "Iranian soil" or ایران شهر Irānshahr "The Land of Iran") refers to the regions of South, West, and Central Asia that have significant Iranian cultural influence and have historically been ruled by Iranian peoples.[2][3][4] It roughly corresponds to the territory on the Iranian plateau and its bordering plains,[1] stretching from Iraq, the Caucasus, and Turkey in the west, to the Indus River of Pakistan in the east. It is also referred to as Greater Persia,[5][6][7] while the Encyclopædia Iranica uses the term Iranian Cultural Continent.[8]

The term 'Iran' is not limited to the modern state, more or less equivalent to western Iran. Iran includes all the political boundaries ruled by the Iranian including Mesopotamia and usually Armenia and Transcaucasia.[9][10] The concept of Greater Iran has its source in the history of the first Persian Empire or the Achaemenid Empire in Persis (Fars), and is in fact synonymous with the history of Iran in many respects. After the time of the first Persian Empire, Persia lost many of the territories gained under the Safavid dynasty, including Iraq to the Ottomans (via Treaty of Amasya in 1555 and Treaty of Zuhab in 1639), Afghanistan to the British (via Treaty of Paris in 1857[11] and MacMahon Arbitration in 1905[12]), and its Caucasus territories to Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries.[13] The Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 resulted in Persia ceding Armenia, Azerbaijan, and eastern Georgia to Russia.[14] The Turkmanchey Treaty of 1828, after the Russo-Persian wars permanently severed the Caucasian provinces from Iran and settled the modern boundary along the Aras River.[15]

Due to this geographic diversity, newly independent nations under Russian or British involvement, while maintaining a cultural or language connection with Persia, developed their own unique socio-political and cultural paths. Some of these nations included Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Georgia, Iraq, and Pakistan. In 1935 under the rule of Reza Shah, the endonym Iran was made the official international name.[16] From a native Persian perspective, both Iran and Persia are interchangeable but until then the official name of Iran was Persia. Now both terms are used interchangeably by Iranians, even though Iran is the official political name.


The name “Irān“, meaning “land of the Aryans”, is the New Persian continuation of the old genitive plural aryānām (proto-Iranian, meaning "of the Aryans"), first attested in the Avesta as airyānąm (the text of which is composed in Avestan, an old Iranian language spoken in northeastern Greater Iran, or in what are now Turkmenistan and Tajikistan).[17][18][19][20] The proto-Iranian term aryānām is present in the term Airyana Vaēǰah, the homeland of Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism, near the provinces of Sogdiana, Margiana, Bactria, etc., listed in the first chapter of the Vidēvdād.[21][22] The Avestan evidence is confirmed by Greek sources: Arianē is spoken of as being between Persia and the Indian subcontinent.[18]

While up until the end of the Parthian period in the 3rd century CE, the idea of “Irān“ had an ethnic, linguistic, and religious value, it did not yet have a political import. The idea of an “Iranian“ empire or kingdom in a political sense is a purely Sasanian one. It was the result of a convergence of interests between the new dynasty and the Zoroastrian clergy, as we can deduce from the available evidence. This convergence gave rise to the idea of an Ērān-šahr “Kingdom of the Iranians,” which was “ēr“ (Middle Persian equivalent of Old Persian “ariya“ and Avestan “airya“).[18]


Richard Foltz notes that while "A general assumption is often made that the various Iranian peoples of 'greater Iran'—a cultural area that stretched from Mesopotamia and the Caucasus into Khwarizm, Transoxiana, Bactria, and the Pamirs and included Persians, Medes, Parthians and Sogdians among others—were all 'Zoroastrians' in pre-Islamic times... This view, even though common among serious scholars, is almost certainly overstated." Foltz argues that "While the various Iranian peoples did indeed share a common pantheon and pool of religious myths and symbols, in actuality a variety of deities were worshipped—particularly Mitra, the god of covenants, and Anahita, the goddess of the waters, but also many others—depending on the time, place, and particular group concerned.".[23] To the Ancient Greeks, Greater Iran ended at the Indus.[24]

Richard Nelson Frye defines Greater Iran as including "much of the Caucasus, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, with cultural influences extending to China and western India." 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."[25]

According to J. P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams most of Western greater Iran spoke Southwestern Iranian languages in the Achaemenid era while the Eastern territory spoke Eastern Iranian languages related to Avestan.[26]

George Lane also states that after the dissolution of the Mongol empire, the Ilkhanids became rulers of greater Iran[27] and Uljaytu, according to Judith G. Kolbas, was the ruler of this expanse between 1304-1317 A.D.[28]

Primary sources, including Timurid historian Mir Khwand, define Iranshahr (Greater Iran) as extending from the Euphrates to the Oxus[29]

Traditionally, and until recent times, ethnicity has never been a defining separating criterion 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 Clawson states, "ethnic nationalism is largely a nineteenth century phenomenon, even if it is fashionable to retroactively extend it."[30] "Greater Iran" however has been more of a cultural super-state, rather than a political one to begin with.

In the work Nuzhat al-Qolub (نزهه القلوب), the medieval geographer Hamdollah Mostowfi wrote:

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
The wealthy Ganjeh of Arran, and Esfahān in Iraq,
در خراسان مرو و طوس در روم باشد اقسرا
Merv and Tus in 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".[31] A detailed list of these territories follows in this article.


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.[32]

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 (referred to, in Persian, as Farsi) was the main literary language and the language of correspondence in Central Asia and 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 [6].

With Imperial Russia continuously 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 Mirza in 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.[33] The Russian armies occupied the Aral coast in 1849, Tashkent in 1864, Bukhara in 1867, Samarkand in 1868, and Khiva and Amudarya in 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 Empire wrested 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 Derbent in southern Russia. The Shah lost much of his claim to western Afghanistan following the Anglo-Iranian war of 1856-1857. Only in 1970 did a UN sponsored consultation end Iranian claims to suzerainty over the Persian Gulf island nation of Bahrain. In centuries past, Iranian rule once stretched westward into modern Iraq and 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 Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy[34]
"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[35]
"Since the days of the Achaemenids, the Iranians had the protection of geography. But high mountains and vast emptiness of the Iranian plateau were 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, and Afghanistan were Iranian, but by the end of the century, all this territory had been lost as a result of European military action."[36]


In the 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 Gurgan and Damaghan cities. Especially the Ghaznavids, Seljuqs and Timurids divided their Empire to 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. Transoxiana and Chorasmia were mostly included in the Khorasanian region.

Middle East


The "Ajam" and "Huwala" are ethnic communities of Bahrain of Persian origin. The Persians of Bahrain are a significant and influential ethnic community whose ancestors arrived in Bahrain within the last 1,000 years as laborers, merchants and artisans. They have traditionally been merchants living in specific quarters of Manama and Muharraq. Bahrain's Persians who adhere to the Shia sect of Islam are Ajam and the Persians who adhere to the Sunni sect are called Huwala, who migrated from Ahwaz in Iran to the Persian Gulf in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.

The immigration of Persians to Bahrain began when the Greek Seleucid kingdom which was ruling Bahrain at the time fell and the Persian Empire successfully invaded Bahrain, but it is often believed that mass immigration started during the 1600s when Abbas I of Persia invaded Bahrain. After settling in Bahrain, some of the Persians were effectively Arabized. They usually settled in areas inhabited by the indigenous Baharna, probably because they share the same Shia Muslim faith, however, some Sunni Persians settled in areas mostly inhabited by Sunni Arab immigrants such as Hidd and Galali. In Muharraq, they have their own neighborhood called Fareej Karimi named after a rich Persian man called Ali Abdulla Karimi.

From the 6th century BC to the 3rd century BC, Bahrain was a prominent part of the Persian Empire by the Achaemenids, an Iranian dynasty. Bahrain was referred to by the Greeks as "Tylos", the centre of pearl trading, when Nearchus discovered it while serving under Alexander the Great.[37] From the 3rd century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Bahrain was controlled by two other Iranian dynasties, the Parthians and the Sassanids.

In the 3rd century AD, the Sassanids succeeded the Parthians and controlled the area for four centuries until the arrival of Islam.[38] Ardashir, the first ruler of the Iranian Sassanid dynasty marched to Oman and Bahrain and defeated Sanatruq[39] (or Satiran[40]), probably the Parthian governor of Bahrain.[41] He appointed his son Shapur I as governor of Bahrain. Shapur constructed a new city there and named it Batan Ardashir after his father.[40] At this time, Bahrain incorporated the southern Sassanid province covering the Persian Gulf's southern shore plus the archipelago of Bahrain.[41] The southern province of the Sassanids was subdivided into three districts; Haggar (now al-Hafuf province, Saudi Arabia), Batan Ardashir (now al-Qatif province, Saudi Arabia), and Mishmahig (now Bahrain Island)[40] (In Middle-Persian/Pahlavi it means "ewe-fish").[42]

By about 130 BC, the Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf.[38] through warfare and economic distress, been reduced to only 60.[43] The influence of Iran was further undermined at the end of the 18th century when the ideological power struggle between the Akhbari-Usuli strands culminated in victory for the Usulis in Bahrain.[44]

An Afghan invasion of Iran at the beginning of the 18th century resulted in the near collapse of the Safavid state.[45] In the resultant power vacuum, Oman invade Bahrain in 1717, ending over one hundred years of Persian hegemony in Bahrain. The Omani invasion began a period of political instability and a quick succession of outside rulers took power with consequent destruction. According to a contemporary account by theologian, Sheikh Yusuf Al Bahrani, in an unsuccessful attempt by the Persians and their Bedouin allies to take back Bahrain from the Kharijite Omanis, much of the country was burnt to the ground.[46] Bahrain was eventually sold back to the Persians by the Omanis, but the weakness of the Safavid empire saw Huwala tribes seize control.[47]

In 1730, the new Shah of Persia, Nadir Shah, sought to re-assert Persian sovereignty in Bahrain. He ordered Latif Khan, the admiral of the Persian navy in the Gulf, to prepare an invasion fleet in Bushehr.[45] The Persians invaded in March or early April 1736 when the ruler of Bahrain, Shaikh Jubayr, was away on hajj.[45] The invasion brought the island back under central rule and to challenge Oman in the Persian Gulf. He sought help from the British and Dutch, and he eventually recaptured Bahrain in 1736.[48] During the Qajar era, Persian control over Bahrain waned[45] and in 1753, Bahrain was occupied by the Sunni Persians of the Bushire-based Al Madhkur family[49], who ruled Bahrain in the name of Persia and paid allegiance to Karim Khan Zand.

During most of the eighteenth century, Bahrain was ruled by Nasr Al-Madhkur, the emperor of Bushehr. The Bani Utibah tribe from Zubarah exceeded in taking over Bahrain after a war broke out in 1782. Persian attempts to reconquer the island in 1783 and in 1785 failed; the 1783 expedition was a joint Persian-Qawasim invasion force that never left Bushehr. The 1785 invasion fleet, composed of forces from Bushehr, Rig and Shiraz was called off after the death of the ruler of Shiraz, Ali Murad Khan. Due to internal difficulties, the Persians could not attempt another invasion.[50] In 1799, Bahrain came under threat from the expansionist policies of Sayyid Sultan, the Sultan of Oman, when he invaded the island under the pretext that Bahrain did not pay taxes owed.[51] The Bani Utbah solicited the aid of Bushire to expel the Omanis on the condition that Bahrain would become a tributary state of Persia. In 1800, Sayyid Sultan invaded Bahrain again in retaliation and deployed a garrison at Arad Fort, in Muharraq island and had appointed his twelve-year-old son Salim, as Governor of the island.[51] [52] }

Many names of villages in Bahrain are derived from the Persian language.[53] These names were thought to have been as a result influences during the Safavid rule of Bahrain (1501–1722) and previous Persian rule. Village names such as Karbabad, Salmabad, Karzakan, Duraz, Barbar were originally derived from the Persian language, suggesting that Persians had a substantial effect on the island's history.[53] The local Bahrani Arabic dialect has also borrowed many words from the Persian language.[53] Bahrain's capital city, Manama is derived from two Persian words meaning 'I' and 'speech'.[53]

In 1910, the Persian community funded and opened a private school, Al-Ittihad school, that taught Farsi amongst other subjects.[54] According to the 1905 census, there were 1650 Bahraini citizens of Persian origin.[55]

Historian Nasser Hussain says that many Iranians fled their native country in the early 20th century due to a law king Reza Shah issued which banned women from wearing the hijab, or because they feared for their lives after fighting the English, or to find jobs. They were coming to Bahrain from Bushehr and the Fars province between 1920 to 1940. In the 1920s, local Persian merchants were prominently involved in the consolidation of Bahrain's first powerful lobby with connections to the municipality in effort to contest the municipal legislation of British control.[55]

Bahrain's local Persian community have heavily influenced the country's local food dishes. One of the most notable local delicacies of the people in Bahrain is mahyawa, consumed in Southern Iran as well, is a watery earth brick coloured sauce made from sardines and consumed with bread or other food. Bahrain's Persians are also famous in Bahrain for bread-making. Another local delicacy is "pishoo" made from rose water (golab) and agar agar. Other food items consumed are similar to Persian cuisine.


Iraq has formed an intrinsic part of the Iranian world for most of the last three millennia. It is where the Achaemenid capital Babylon, and the Parthian and Sassanian capital Ctesiphon were located.

During the time of the Sassanid Empire, from the 3rd century to the 7th century, the major part of Iraq was called in Persian Del-e Īrānshahr (lit. "the heart of Iran"), and its metropolis Ctesiphon (not far from present-day Baghdad) functioned for more than 800 years as the capital city of Iran.[56][57]

Because the Achaemenid Empire or "First Persian Empire" was the successor state to the empires of Assyria and Babylonia based in Iraq, and because Elam is part of Iran, the Iranians also share in the heritage of ancient Mesopotamia together with the Iraqis. The ancient Persians adopted Babylonian cuneiform script and modified it to write their language, along with adopting many other facets of ancient Iraqi culture, including the Aramaic language which became the official language of the Persian Empire.

The Cyrus Cylinder, written in Babylonian cuneiform in the name of the Achaemenid king Cyrus, describes the Persian takeover of Babylon (the ancient name of Iraq). An excerpt reads:

According to Iranologist Richard N. Frye:

Between the coming of the Abbasids [in 750] and the Mongol onslaught [in 1258], Iraq and western Iran shared a closer history than did eastern Iran and its western counterpart.[58]

Testimony to the close relationship shared by Iraq and western Iran during the Abbasid era and later centuries, is the fact that the two regions came to share the same name. The western region of Iran (ancient Media) was called 'Irāq-e 'Ajamī ("Persian Iraq"), while central-southern Iraq (Babylonia) was called 'Irāq al-'Arabī ("Arabic Iraq") or Bābil ("Babylon").

For centuries the two neighbouring regions were known as "The Two Iraqs" ("al-'Iraqain"). The 12th century Persian poet Khāqāni wrote a famous poem Tohfat-ul Iraqein ("The Gift of the Two Iraqs"). The city of Arāk in western Iran still bears the region's old name, and Iranians still traditionally call the region between Tehran, Isfahan and Īlām "ʿErāq".

During the Ottoman–Safavid War of 1532–1555, when Iran lost 'Irāq-e 'Arabī to the Ottomans, the Ottoman's goal had been to conquer The Two Iraqs (present Iraq and western Iran).

The Timurid historian Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru (d. 1430) wrote of Iraq:

Iraqis share significant religious, cultural and ethnic ties with Iranians. Close to two-thirds of Iraqis adhere to Twelver Shīa Islam – the same religion, sect, and school adhered to by most Iranians – and around one-fifth of Iraqis speak Iranian languages. Many Iraqis who speak Arabic are of Iranian origin,[59] and Iranian surnames are common in Iraq. Many Iraqis hold elements of Persian identity, while still loving Iraq — a legacy of several millennia of cultural synergy and migration between the Iraqi lowland and the Iranian highland.

Iraqi culture has much in common with the culture of Iran. The spring festival of Nowruz is celebrated in Iraq by Kurdish and Shī'i Iraqis. Indeed, a spring festival has been practised in Iraq since Sumerian times. The Mesopotamian cuisine is very similar to the Persian cuisine and features many Persian dishes and cooking techniques. The Iraqi dialect has absorbed many words from the Persian language.[60]

There are still cities and provinces in Iraq where the Persian names of the city are still retained. e.g. ’Anbār and Baghdād. Other cities of Iraq with originally Persian names include Nokard (نوكرد) --> Haditha, Suristan (سورستان) --> Kufa, Shahrban (شهربان) --> Muqdadiyah, Arvandrud (اروندرود) --> Shatt al-Arab, and Asheb (آشب) --> Amadiya.[61]

In the modern era, the Safavid dynasty of Iran briefly asserted their hegemony over Iraq in the periods of 1501–1533 and 1622–1638, losing Iraq to the Ottoman Empire on both occasions (via the Treaty of Amasya in 1555 and the Treaty of Zuhab in 1639). Ottoman hegemony over Iraq was reconfirmed in the Treaty of Kerden in 1746.

Many Iraqis are of Iranian origin and many Iranians are of Iraqi origin. If anyone from any group gets hurt in Iraq, it will make the Iranian nation unhappy.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran,[59]

When the Kingdom of Iraq was formed in 1921 by the British, the Persian government refused to recognize the state, claiming Najaf and Karbala as "holy places of Persia".[62] During the four-decade-long British occupation of Iraq, the British sought to reduce Persian influence in the country[63] – a policy continued under the later Ba'athist dictatorship. Following the fall of the Ba'athist regime in 2003 and the empowerment of Iraq's majority Shī'i community, relations with Iran have flourished in all fields. Iraq is today Iran’s largest trading partner in regard to non-oil goods.[64]

Many Iranians were born in Iraq or have ancestors from Iraq,[59] such as the Chairman of Iran's Parliament Ali Larijani, the former Chief Justice of Iran Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi, who were born in Najaf and Karbala respectively. In the same way, many Iraqis were born in Iran or have ancestors from Iran,[59] such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who was born in Mashhad.


Culturally and historically Kurdistan has been part of what is known as Greater Iran. 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, 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, Kurdish Jews, and a modern revival of interest in Zoroastrianism, though the last of these is largely, if not entirely, nominal.



Armenia was a province of various Persian Empires since the Achaemenid period 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.[65] 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 Europe and Lebanon.

Iran continues to have a sizeable Armenian minority that links Armenians to Iranian culture. Many Armenians such as Yeprem Khan were directly involved and remembered in the history of Iran.


With 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 Turkmenchay, Iran was forced to cede Nakhichevan Khanate and the Mughan regions to Russia, as well as Erivan Khanate. These territories roughly constitute the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan and Republic of Armenia. Some localities in this region bear Persian names or names derived from Iranian languages.


The eastern Georgian regions of Kartli and Kakheti were Persian Provinces during Sassanid times (particularly starting with Hormozd IV). Some members of the Georgian elite were involved in the Safavid government and Amin al-Sultan, Prime Minister of Iran, was the son of a Georgian father.[66]

Eastern Georgia was under the influence of Persia until 1783 when Erekle II of Kartli and Kakheti signed the Treaty of Georgievsk with the Russian Empire. Persia officially gave up claim to parts of Georgia according to the terms of the Gulistan and Turkmenchay Treaties.


Early in antiquity, Narseh of Persia is known to have had fortifications built here. In later times, some of Persia's literary and intellectual figures from the Qajar period have hailed from this region. Also separated from Greater-Iran/Persia in the mid-19th century, 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.

North Caucasus

North Caucasus region in today's southern Russia including the republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and other republics and oblasts of the region long formed part of Persia and the Iranian cultural sphere until they were annexed by Imperial Russia over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. Strong Persian cultural influence can be traced up as far as Tatarstan in central Russia. Fine examples of Iranian architecture in many Caucasus cities like the Sassanid citadel in Derbent bear witness to the importance of these territories before the arrival of Russians to the region, when it was under Persian influence, rule and suzerainty. (Even today, after decades of partition, some of these regions retain a sort of Iranian identity, as seen in their old beliefs, traditions and customs (e.g. Norouz)).[67]

Central Asia

Khwarazm is one of the regions of Iran-zameen, and is the home of the ancient Iranians, Airyanem Vaejah, according to the ancient book of the Avesta. Modern scholars believe Khwarazm to be what ancient Avestic texts refer to as "Ariyaneh Waeje" or Iran vij. Iranovich These sources claim that Urgandj, which was the capital of ancient Khwarazm for many years, was actually "Ourva": the eighth land of Ahura Mazda mentioned in the Pahlavi text of Vendidad. Others such as University of Hawaii historian Elton L. Daniel believe Khwarazm to be the "most likely locale" corresponding to the original home of the Avestan people,[68] while Dehkhoda calls Khwarazm "the cradle of the Aryan tribe" (مهد قوم آریا). Today Khwarazm is split between several central Asian republics.

Superimposed on and overlapping with Chorasmia was Khorasan which roughly covered nearly the same geographical areas in Central Asia (starting from Semnan eastward 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 Province in Iran are 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.[69]


Afghanistan was part of Greater Khorasan, and hence was recognized with the name Khorasan (along with regions centered around Merv and Nishapur), which in Pahlavi means "The Eastern Land" (خاور زمین in Persian).[70]

Afghanistan is where Balkh is located, home of Rumi, Rabi'a Balkhi, Sanāī Ghaznawi, Jami, Khwaja Abdullah Ansari and where many other notables in Persian literature came from.

ز زابل به کابل رسید آن زمان
From Zabul he arrived to Kabul
گرازان و خندان و دل شادمان
Strutting, happy, and mirthful
---Ferdowsi in Shahnama


The national anthem in Tajikistan, "Rudaki, considered by many as the father of modern Persian Language, was from Tajikistan.


Home of the Parthian Empire (Nysa). Merv is also where the half-Persian caliph al-Mamun moved his capital to. The city of Eshgh Abad (some claim that the word is actually the transformed form of "Ashk Abad" literally meaning "built by Ashk", the head of Arsaced dynasty) is yet another Persian word meaning "city of love", and like Iran, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan, it was once part of Airyanem Vaejah.


Uzbekistan has a local Tajik population. The famous cities of Afrasiab, Bukhara, Samarkand, Shahrisabz, Andijan, Khiveh, Navā'i, Shirin, Termez, and Zar-afshan are located here. These cities are the birthplace of the Islamic era Persian literature. The Samanids, who claimed inheritance to the Sassanids, had their capital built here.

ای بخارا شاد باش و دیر زی
Oh Bukhara! Joy to you and live long!
شاه زی تو میهمان آید همی
Your King comes to you in ceremony.


The Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County regions of China harbored a Persian population and culture.[71] Chinese Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County was always counted as a part of the Iranian cultural & linguistic continent with Kashgar, Yarkand, Hotan, and Turpan bound to the Iranian history.[72]

The culture of the Muslim Uyghur people of Xinjiang has been strongly influenced by Persian culture.

South Asia


The western provinces and territories of Pakistan, which comprise Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and Baluchistan, are Iranian-speaking regions where Pashtuns and Baluchis comprise the majority of the local populations. The Baluch and Pashtun tribes are the easternmost of the Iranian peoples and the Baluchistan region, which covers southwestern Pakistan, is the easternmost region of the Iranian plateau.

Historical maps of Iran


See also


  1. here
  2. Iran-China relations for more links on the historical ties.

External links

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