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Khorasan and the neighboring regions of Transoxania and Khorezmia in Central Asia

Khorasan or Khurasan ( Persian خراسان Chorāsān , DMG Ḫurāsān , sometimes also Chorassan or Khurasan , in English mostly written Khorassan or Khorasan ), with more northern regions summarized as Chorasan and Mā warā 'an-nahr ( Arabic - Persian خراسان و ما وراء النهر, DMG Ḫurāsān wa Mā warāʾ an-nahr ), is a historical region in Central Asia in the area of ​​today's states Afghanistan , Iran , Tajikistan , Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan .

Word origin

The word Khorasan is Middle Persian and means “Land of the Rising Sun” (“Orient”, also “Orient” or “Sun Land”).

Another proposal for origin of the term comes from A. Ghilain (1939: 49) also of HS Nyberg is stated Khorasan on medium Persian xwar "sun" and the Parthian verb "come forward". The ending -ān denotes the present participle. So would mean Khorasan (Middle Persian xwarāsān ) "the coming sun."


The region is bordered by the Caspian Sea to the west, the Hindu Kush to the east and the two historical areas of Transoxania and Choresm to the north . The northern part of Khorasan is in Turkistan , the southern parts belong to the desert region of Sistan . In the southwest, the two oases Tabas and Kurain in the former Iranian province of Khorasan represented the border of the historical region. Al-Balādhurī describes them in his book on the "conquest of the lands" as the "two gates of Khorasan " ( bābā Ḫurāsān ).

Important cities of Khorasan are: Marw (today in Turkmenistan ), Bukhara , Samarkand (today in Uzbekistan ), Balkh , Kabul , Ghazni , Herat (today in Afghanistan ), Mashhad , Tus and Nishapur (today in Iran ).


Pre-Islamic period

As a historical landscape, which in antiquity stretched from the Caspian Sea to what is now central and northern Afghanistan, the region has belonged since the 6th century BC. Under Cyrus the Great to the Persian Empire and was divided into the satrapies of Bactria , Sogdia , Khorezmia and Parthia . With the victory of Alexander the Great over the Achaemenids , Khorasan became a Macedonian colony. When the Alexander Empire was divided , it fell to the Seleucids . After the conquest by Arsakes I (247 BC), Khorasan was the origin and core area of ​​the Parthian Empire , which fell to the Persian dynasty of the Sassanids under Ardaschir I in 227 AD and was one of the four parts of the New Persian Empire Name "Land of the Rising Sun" (= Khorasan ) received.

As part of ancient Bactria, it is also the region from which the founder of the religion Zarathustra is said to come from. After the conquest of Bactia by the Kushana , these merged culturally, religiously and linguistically with the already resident population under the Sassanids. The Kushana ruler Kanishka was tolerant of the traditional religions that dominated his empire, as evidenced by the discovery of a Zoroastrian fire temple in Baghlan, which goes back to a foundation of Kanishka. Later, some rulers also converted to Buddhism . Khorasan in particular became the center of Buddhist-Hindu theology and natural philosophy during this epoch and also gained national economic importance.

Islamic period

The first Arab forays into the area of ​​Khorasan took place during the caliphate of ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān by the governor of Basra , ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿĀmir. In the year 30 of the Hijra (= 650/651 AD) he advanced to Khorasan, conquered the Hephtalites and occupied the entire area of ​​Marw, Balkh and Herat. The Umayyads sent their own governors to Khorasan, some of whom became famous, such as Yazīd ibn al-Muhallab , who ruled from 702 to 704, and Qutaiba ibn Muslim . During the governorship of Nasr ibn Saiyār , the Abbasid propaganda in Khorasan gained great influence. On June 15, 747, Abū Muslim hoisted the Abbasid's “black banner” in Marw and began the revolt against the Umayyads. His general Qahtaba ibn Shabib pursued the Umayyad forces in a westerly direction and pushed them back from Iran.

After the Abbasids came to power in 749, Abū Muslim remained governor of Khorasan until his death in 755. Many residents of Khorasan, such as the Barmakids , emigrated to the west in the following period and placed themselves in the service of the Abbasids who ruled from Iraq. Al-Balādhurī reports that soldiers from Khorasan camped in Cilicia with their commander Maslam ibn Yahyā in the years 141/142 of the Hijra (= 758/759) and founded the city of Adana there.

Under the rule of the subsequent dynasties - the Tahirids , Saffarids and Samanids - Khorasan developed into one of the centers of Persian and Islamic culture. This tradition was continued by the subsequent Turkic-Persian dynasties ( Ghaznavids , Seljuks ), which gradually replaced the local dynasties. In 1220 Khorasan was overrun and conquered by the Mongols under Genghis Khan ; large parts and especially the cities were destroyed.

Under the following rulers - the Ilkhan , Timurids and Mughals - Khorasan experienced a renewed heyday.

The most important and best-known scholars and Sufis (Islamic mystics) of the Persian- Islamic world lived and worked here, including the doctor Avicenna , the inventor of algebra al-Chwarizmi , the theologian al-Ghazālī , the poets Rumi , Attar and Ferdousī , the Mathematicians Ulugh Beg and Omar Chajjam and the polymath al-Biruni .

After 1510, Khorasan was fought for a long time between the Safavids and the Uzbeks ; the Uzbeks could only stay there for a short time.

In 1598, most of Khorasan finally came under Iranian sovereignty when the Safavids conquered most of eastern Iran. At times, smaller parts in the northwest and southwest were under Uzbek or Indian rule. In 1748 the Pashtun dynasty of the Durrani was founded in Khorasan , whose emirs, as the "rulers of Khorasan", became the forerunners of today's state of Afghanistan . In 1863 Herat finally fell to Afghanistan, Merw to Russia in 1884. Today Afghanistan and the Persian (Tajik) population of Afghanistan see themselves as the legal successor of the medieval Khorasan.

In Khorasan, many peoples, their knowledge and cultures mixed with the indigenous Iranian civilization. Due to this long and important history, this region has a special meaning not only for the Iranian population , but also for Turks and Arabs . This is still evident today in the composition of Khorasan's population.


Khorasan is a multi-ethnic region due to its eventful history. The population of Khorasan is made up of Persians, Pashtuns , Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Mongols and Baluch as well as smaller groups of Jews and Lurs .

The largest population group in Khorasan today are the speakers of Iranian languages , mainly Persian and Pashto , with Persian being the dominant language numerically as well as historically and culturally. The speakers of Central Asian Turkic languages form a significant minority , of which Uzbek and Turkmen are certainly the most important. There are also smaller communities of Arabs and Kurds . In addition, there are some scattered, formerly nomadic ethnic groups in the Iranian part of Khorasan , including the Jat and the Asheq (cf. Aşık ) named musicians from India .

99 percent of the population of Khorasan is Muslim , of which the majority in the Iranian part is Shiite, in the other countries the majority is Sunni , with a very significant Shiite minority. The west of Khorasan in particular is a center of the Shiite denomination. Among other things, the city of Mashhad, sacred to the Shiites, is located there .


References and comments

  1. lit. Translation: Khorasan and Transoxania . Another name for this region is Persian خراسان بزرگ, DMG Ḫorāsān-e bozorg (see personal Wikipedia article ) or Arabic خراسان الكبرى, DMG Ḫurāsān al-kubrā  'Great Khorasan' (cf. Arabic Wikipedia article ).
  2. ^ Johann Jakob Egli : Nomina geographica. Language and factual explanation of 42,000 geographical names of all regions of the world. 2nd Edition. Leipzig 1893; Reprint Hildesheim / New York 1973, p. 196.
  3. See Encyclopædia Britannica and online Dehkhoda dictionary .
  4. ^ A. Ghilain: Essai sur la langue parthe: son système verbal d'après les textes manichéens du Turkestan oriental. Bureaux du Muséon, Louvain 1939.
  5. ^ HS Nyberg: A Manual of Pahlavi II. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1974, p. 220.
  6. al-Balāḏurī: Kitāb Futūḥ al-Buldān. Edited by Michael Jan de Goeje . Brill, Leiden 1866, p. 403, line 3. ( digitized version )
  7. Article: ʿAbd Allaah: ʿĀmir. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition . Volume I: AB. Blill, Leiden 1986, ISBN 978-90-04-08114-7 , p. 43b.
  8. Al-Balāḏurī: Kitāb Futūḥ al-Buldān. Edited by Michael Jan de Goeje . Brill, Leiden 1866, p. 168, line 11 f. ( Digitized version )
  9. ^ Jürgen Paul: Central Asia. 2012, p. 287.
  10. ^ Jürgen Paul: Central Asia. 2012, p. 275.
  11. ^ Pierre Oberling: Chorasan . In: Ehsan Yarshater (Ed.): Encyclopædia Iranica (English, including references)
  12. Sekandar Amanolahi: The Gypsies of Iran (A Brief Introduction). In: Iran & the Caucasus. Volume 3/4, 1999/2000, ISSN  1609-8498 , Brill, Leiden 1999, pp. 109-118, here p. 109.