Persians (people)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Persians (depending on the context persian ایرانیان فارسی‌زبان, 'Persian-speaking Iranians', Persian مردمان ایرانی, 'Iranian Peoples' or Persian فارسی, DMG Fārsī , 'Persians') are an ethnic group in the Greater Middle East and Central Asia . The Persian people are defined through the use of the Persian language as their mother tongue. However, the term Persian also has a supra-ethnic meaning and was historically used to denote Iranian peoples who settled parts of the Iranian highlands named after them . At the beginning of the 6th century BC The ancient Persians, starting from the Persis region in southern Iran , today's Fars Province , began to spread their language and culture almost throughout the Iranian highlands by subjugating other population groups. This process of approximating the cultures of the region was continued by the Greek , Arab , Seljuk and Mongolian invaders and has continued into modern times.

However, other languages ​​and regional identities have been preserved to this day. With the disintegration of the last Persian Empire, ruled by the Afsharid and Qajar dynasties, areas in the Caucasus and Central Asia were lost, some of which were annexed directly to the Russian Empire , some of which ultimately fell to it via detours. The Persian language with its varieties has remained locally there until today.

The Persian people thus emerged from a diverse population who share the Persian language as their main heritage. Various Persian-speaking populations in Central Asia, such as the Hazara , show traces of Mongolian origin. In addition, Persian was the language of culture, literature and court in neighboring regions, especially in the Indian Mughal Empire .

While most Persians in Iran became followers of the Shia , many in the east, particularly in Afghanistan and Tajikistan , remained Sunnis , with the exception of the Farsiwan and most of the Hazara. Small groups of Persians belong to Zoroastrianism , Baha'i , Christianity, or Judaism .

To the designated ethnic groups

Robes of old Persian nobles and soldiers

The Persians were originally a western Iranian people in the region north of the Persian Gulf , in the area of ​​the Persis (today's Iranian province of Fars ). In the academic literature of Central Asia they are called Tajiks ("Persians of Central Asia"), in the Caucasus they are called T ā t , or Taten ("Persians of the Caucasus").

Today a distinction is made between:

In a narrower sense, these are mainly the present-day Persians (Tajiks), Kurds , Zazas , Pashtuns and Baluch . In Persian mythology, the word only refers to the Persians.

  • Persians = Persian-speaking people - Kurds and Pashtuns are by their self-image not Persians .
  • According to a modern, but insufficient definition, the members of the "Persian" people are divided into the following Persian-speaking groups:

Here the term corresponds to the above-mentioned linguistic generalization made in the West, which led to the equation of all Iranian tribes with the tribe of the Persians.

  • Tajiks = Middle Persian term for Persians (actually "Arabs") who live in Central Asia . Today the word refers almost exclusively to the Persian-speaking population in Tajikistan , Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan . In contrast to the word Persian , the word Tajik has been preserved to this day as the self-designation of that population. Another possible origin of the word is the ancient Chinese term Ta-Hia ( Bactria ).
  • 'Adscham = Arabic name for the Persian people or all non-Arabs ; Self-designation of the Persian population in Bahrain , Kuwait , UAE and the rest of the Arabic language and culture.
  • Parsees = followers of Zarathustra in India (see also Parsism and Zoroastrianism ).

In a historical context, Persians naturally also relate unspecifically to the respective national peoples of the territories designated as Persian Empire or Persia .

Origin of the word Persian

The word Persian ( Persian فارسی Fārsī ) is derived from the old Persian Parsa and came into German via Greek and Latin. According to Greek legend, Perseus settled in the east. His descendants became the Persians. This gave rise to the name Persis , a region in the south of today's Iran and the former center of the Persian world empire . The current name of the corresponding Iranian province Fars represents the neo-Persian form of the word.

The word was originally the name of only one Iranian tribe. But after the triumphant advance of the Macedonians , who called all people of Iranian descent in the Persian Empire Persians , this term became more and more a foreign name for all Persian-speaking people in the region who were of Iranian descent.

In the 7th century AD, when Persia was conquered by the Arabs under the sign of Islam , there was a change in sound from the Middle Persian Pārsīg to the New Persian Fārsī .

In 1935, the then state of Persia, which was always called Iran in its own language, asked the international community to name the country only Iran from now on - this amid massive protests from neighboring Afghanistan , which, like Tajikistan today, also culturally denotes the term claimed.


The ancient capital of the Persians: Persepolis (ruin)

For the first time the Persians were known as Paršua by the Assyrians in their inscriptions from the year 843 BC. Mentioned where they invaded the northeastern part of Assyria . After settling down in Persis (old Persian: Parsa , modern: Fars ), they occupied the territory of the former kingdom of Elam and dissolved the Median kingdom around 550 BC. From. The Persian Empire developed into one of the most important civilizations in the Middle East and shaped human history. After their defeat by the Macedonians under Alexander , some areas of the Persian Empire were influenced by the Hellenic culture , but the core areas of the Persians were hardly affected.

For the more detailed history of the individual Iranian peoples, the ancestors of today's Persians, see:


  • Aryans / Iranians , Indo-European ancestors of today's Persians
  • Aratti , the hypothetical ancestors of the Persians, but their actual existence has not been proven.
  • Avesta , the holy book of Zoroastrianism ; its origins lie in eastern Iranian Bactria
  • Persian Empire , the three ancient empires of the Iranians / Persians:

Early Middle Ages

  • Abu Muslim Khorasani , Persian leader of the Abbasid movement in Khorasan.
  • Abbasid Caliphate , with the Abbasid Caliphate, the Persians took power in the Islamic world
  • Persian dynasties of:
    • Barmacids
    • Bujiden , first independent Persian dynasty after Islamization in western Persia
    • Samanids , first independent Persian dynasty after the Arabization of Eastern Persia
    • Ghurids , the last Persian dynasty in Eastern Persia before the Turkish conquest

Modern times

Language, culture and religion


Most of today's Persians belong to the Twelve Shia , which was established as the state religion in 1501 by the first Safavid ruler , Shah Ismail I. This direction of Shiite Islam, however, goes back to the Bujid dynasty and the beginnings of Islam in Persia. Today the culture of the Persians is identified with Shiism . Especially in Iran who come Zoroastrians , the descendants of these before and in India parsing . Furthermore, there were around 500,000 Persian Jews up to 1948 who later fled or emigrated to the USA , Israel or Europe . In 2011, Jews made up 0.01% of the Iranian population, making them the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel.


The majority of the Persians speak New Persian , which is a form of Indo-European Persian interspersed with many Arabic words and written in a modified Arabic script . Thus, today's Persians also belong to the Indo-European (Indo-European) language family.


The heart of Persian culture is the art of poetry . Nowhere else is poetry so important in people's everyday lives as in the Persian culture. Persian poets have made significant contributions to the development of the New Persian language and identity, including: a .:

Persians / Tajiks were also some of the most famous scientists, scholars and artists of the Middle Ages:

  • the doctor Ibn Sina ( Avicenna ), who today as the father of modern medicine applies
  • the mathematician al-Chwarizmi , from whose name the Latinized term algorithm is derived and who introduced the term algebra in his work
  • the poet and mathematician Omar Chajjam
  • the astronomer and historian Biruni
  • the painter Behzad

Persians today

Globally, the number of ethnic Persians (including the Tajiks ) is more than 70 million. About 50 million Persians live in Iran (about 65% of the total population). 10–15 million Persians / Tajiks (35–45%) live in Afghanistan, and a further 12–15 million Tajiks live in Central Asia. They are the predominant people in Iran today , in Tajikistan and, including the native-speaking Persian-speaking Hazara , in Afghanistan . In Afghanistan, where the Persian language is used by the Tajiks (Farsiwan) and the Hazara with a large majority in the provinces of Herāt, Kābul, Parvān, Punjjir, Kapisa, Badachschān, Bādghīs, Baghlān, Balch, Bāmiyān, Daikondi, Tachār and Qondār, Fondār or is spoken in the provinces of Farāh, Jūzdschān, Ghaznī, Ghūr, Lūgar, Nimrūz, Samangan, Sar-e Pol, Vardak, Zābol, and Orūzgān, Persian-speaking ethnic groups form the largest proportion of the total population with over 60%. The ethnic origin of the Hazara is controversial and is presented differently in research. There are also significant Persian communities in Bahrain , Iraq , Uzbekistan and, since the end of World War II , in Europe (around two million there) and in the USA , where around 1.2 million Persians live , especially in Los Angeles . In Beverly Hills , California, there is a Persian population of 20% and among the high school students a proportion of 40%.

During the Islamization of Persia, a considerable number of Persians fled to Central Asia , China and the Indian subcontinent, where they still exist today as a separate ethnic group ( Parsees ) and where religion, traditional customs and language have been preserved better than in the actual Core area that is almost completely Islamized today.


  • Maria Brosius: The Persians. An Introduction . In: Peoples of the Ancient World . tape XVIII . Routledge, London 2006.
  • Jahanshah Derakhshani: The Aryans in the Middle Eastern sources of the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC Chr . 2nd Edition. International Publications of Iranian Studies, Tehran 1999, ISBN 964-90368-6-5 .
  • Richard Frye : Persia . Kindler, Zurich 1962 (also Magnus, Essen 1975).
  • Josef Wiesehöfer : The early Persia. History of an ancient empire . C. H. Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-43307-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Perser  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Notes and individual references

  1. In today's Persian form of the Arabic alphabet, the letter "p" has been used since the 9th century AD at the latest; see. Rudaki , first poet of the New Persian language.
  2. 2011 General Census Selected Results . Statistical Center of Iran. 2012.
  3. ^ In Iran, Mideast's largest Jewish population outside Israel finds new acceptance by officials . Retrieved September 1, 2015.