ای نام تو بهترین سرآغاز

                              بی نام تو نامه کی کنم باز

یادگاری کز آدمی‌زاد است

سخن است آن دگر همه باد است
 

Politicization of the background of Nizami Ganjavi: Attempted de-Iranization of a historical Iranian figure by the USSR

By Dr. Ali Doostzadeh

(alidoostzadeh “AT”yahoo.com)

 

تقدیم به یاد ولادمیر مینورسکی و نوروز علی محمداف

                (In memory of Vladimir Minorsky and Nowruzali Mohammadzadeh)

 

Special thanks go to Shahrbaraz http://shahrbaraz.blogspot.com for proof-reading and adding useful comments.  This article is dedicated to the memory of Novruzali Mammadov and Vladimir Minorsky. 

 

Note 1:  The article believes that Nizami Ganjavi despite his Iranic background, culture and contribution to Iranian civilization, and being a product of this civilization is a universal figure.  He is also equally a part of the heritage of Iran, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and modern republic of Azerbaijan.  These are people that are either Iranian or have been greatly affected by Iranian civilization although at his own time, the concept of nation-state did not exist for any particular modern country to claim Nizami Ganjavi.  People of Iranic backgrounds and inheritors of Persian language, civilization and culture have the duty to present this universal figure to the world and keep his language alive.  At the same time, this great figure has been politically manipulated by some ethno-minded scholars and USSR ethno-engineers.  The article discusses this issue at length where USSR tried (and failed) to detach this great Iranian figure from Iranian civilization.

 

Note 2:  the PDF version of this article reads much better and can be downloaded from here:

http://sites.google.com/site/rakhshesh/articles-related-to-iranian-history

(look for PersianPoetNezamiGanjeiPoliticizationByUSSR.pdf)

Or

http://www.archive.org/details/PoliticizationOfTheBackgroundOfNizamiGanjaviAttemptedDe-iranizationOf

(look for PDF file)

Or

http://www.kavehfarrokh.com/articles/pan-turanism/

(look for .pdf file)

To Cite:

Doostzadeh, Ali. “Politicization of the background of Nizami Ganjavi: Attempted de-Iranization of a historical Iranian figure by the USSR", June 2008 (Updated 2009). 

URL:  http://sites.google.com/site/rakhshesh/articles-related-to-iranian-history

The article should also be somewhere in www.archive.org

 

 

The goal of this article is to examine the ethnic roots and cultural association of Nezami Ganjavi, one of the greatest Persian poets.  It is of course well known that Nezami is a universal figure, but there are two reasons to examine his ethnic and cultural associations.  The first reason is that it helps us understand his work better.   We provide exposition of rare sources (such as Nozhat al-Majales) which are crucial for the study of the 12th century region of Arran and Sherwan.  The other reason to write this article, as explained later in this paper (under the section: politicization of Nizami USSR and its remnants today), is the politicization surrounding Nezami Ganjavi’s ethnic and cultural background by the USSR for the purpose of nation building. Through objective analysis based on Nezami Ganjavi’s work and other primary sources, we analyze the ethnic root and cultural background of Nezami Ganjavi. 

 

The politicization discussion centers on the following points. Despite the fact that Nizami Ganjavi being a Persian poet and all of his poetry is in Persian, is he a cultural icon from the Iranian civilization or Turkic civilization? What is his ethnic background and does it play role in assigning to which civilization he belongs?

 

ای برادر تو همه اندیشه ای

مابقی تو استخوان و ریشه ای

 

And does this question matter at all, given Nizami’s usage of Persian as his cultural vehicle and hence his contribution to Persian culture, language and civilization? Given the fact that Nizami Ganjavi’s poem cannot be translated without losing its multi-layered symbolic meaning and fine details, and given the fact that there is no “pure ethnicity” in the modern Middle East and Caucasia, and given the fact that ethnic divisions were not as prominent as they are today, does the question even matter? The belief of this author is that the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi belongs to all humanity equally. At the same time, Nizami and his legacy are part of the same culture that he was influenced by and expanded upon.  That is other great poets before him, including Ferdowsi, Asadi Tusi, Fakhr ad-in Asad Gorgani and Sanai were his predecessors.  Those who speak, read and write Persian, and understand verses of Nizami’s poetry, are those that keep the heritage of Nizami alive today and have a special responsibility to pass down the cultural heritage of great Persian poets like Ferdowsi, Sanai, Nizami, Attar and many others. For example, Pushkin who is the most popular literary figure of Russians is a Russian poet and has served the Russian language and followed the Russian literary tradition. His ethnicity from his father’s side was partially Ethiopian but nevertheless he is part of Russian culture and civilization.  We shall get back to this issue in the conclusion of this essay. Thus the question of ethnicity is secondary relative to that of the culture/civilization which a poet arises from and contributes towards.  Especially in the middle ages when the concept of nation-state did not exist and one has to concentrate on ethnicity and culture which defines ethnicity.

 

Despite this simple fact that ethnicity of most 12th century figures (and most people do not know their say 20th ancestor!) cannot be 100% known, we will look into the details of Nizami’s background and we will provide criticism for invalid interpretations, recent forgeries of non-existent verses and the politicization of Nizami by the USSR in order to materialize Stalin’s unfulfilled wish that Nizami must not be surrendered to Iranian/Persian literature”! Ultimately, Nizami is part and parcel of Persian-Iranian literature and culture, since he lives through this language, all his thoughts are in this language and he is popular due the masterpieces in this language.  The question of whether he belongs to Iranian civilization or Turkic civilization is simply answered by anyone who can read his untranslatable work in its original language. The issue of his ethnicity has no bearing on this fact. Yet, we will look at this issue in detail and show that there is nothing to support a Turkic ethnicity for Nizami where-as the corpus of Nizami’s work and other historical and cultural reasons show an Iranic background.  That is the issue of claiming Turkic father line for Nizami lacks any solid proof and is used today ethno-nationalists from the republic of Azerbaijan to detach Nezami Ganjavi from Iranian civilization.

 

It is clearly evident that in terms of cultural orientation, cultural background, legacy, myth, folklore and language, Nizami Ganjavi is part of Iranian civilization and a prominent of Persian cultural history.  Thus attempted political annexation of Nizami Ganjavi from Iranian civilization and attribution of Nizami Ganjavi towards Turkic civilization will simply bear no fruit in the long run (since he does not even have a single verse in any other language than Persian) and is a futile political effort which was taken up by USSR for nation-building process and is continued today for unscientific reasons of ethnic nationalism.  Nizami Ganjavi survives through more than 30000+ Persian verses and his background is well known to be at least half Iranic and we will show in this article that it was full Iranic. There is nothing to support a Turkic background for Nizami Ganjavi’s father, who Nizami was orphaned from in an early age and was raised by his Kurdish maternal uncle Khwaja Umar. 

 

The reader of course is free to make their own conclusion, but this does not change the simple fact that Nizami inherited the Persian heritage by previous Iranian poets, composed in the Persian language through Iranian culture,  is alive through the Persian language, Iranian folklore, mythology and culture and finally it is the Persian speakers of the world who can read him in his own language and appreciate his untranslatable poetry (he is arguably one of the hardest poets to translate because of the multi-layered meaning of many verses, play with language and extensive use of symbolism/imagery pertinent to Persian language and culture).  At the same time, we do not deny his shared heritage among countries that have been influenced heavily by Iranian culture and are inheritors of Iranian civilizations and culture. Thus besides highlighting the politicization by the USSR and Stalin, the article will expose many forgeries and invalid arguments to detach Nezami Ganjavi from Iranian background, language and culture.

 


TABLE OF CONTENT

 

Basic Nomenclature on ethnic names used in this writing. 6

On the ethnonym Azeri/Azerbaijani 7

What did the USSR mean by Azerbaijani?. 18

Politicization of Nizami by the USSR and its Remnants Today. 19

Two important and recent articles on Politicization of Nezami by Alexandar Otarovich Tamazshvilli 40

Article 1 of Tamazashvilli: From the History of Study of Nezami-ye Ganjavi in the USSR: Around the Anniversary – E.E. Bertels, J.V. Stalin, and others”. 42

Article 2 of Tamazshvilli: Afterword: (Iranology in Russia and Iranologists) 70

Recent Politicization of the Figure of Nizami Ganjavi 77

Nizami’s Mother 90

Nizami and his maternal uncle Khwaja Umar 94

Nizami’s Father 94

Dynasties before and during the era of Nizami 97

Pre-Islamic Iranic dynasties of Arran, Sherwan and Azerbaijan. 97

Post-Islamic period, the Iranian Intermezzo before the Seljuqids. 100

Seljuqid Empire and subsequent local Atabak dynasties. 110

Regional Iranian culture in Arran/Sherwan and Azerbaijan. 122

Arran/Sherwan and Nezami’s designation of Iran/Persia for his land. 122

Iranic languages and people of Azerbaijan. 138

Language of Tabriz as a special case. 143

Maragheh. 149

Another look at  the linguistic Turkification of Azerbaijan, Arran and Sherwan  149

Qatran Tabrizi, rise of Persian-Dari poetry and what a few modern scholars have called “Azerbaijani school”of Persian poetry. 161

What did Nezami call his own style?. 168

Persian poetry images and symbols: Turk, Hindu, Rum, Zang/Habash. 169

Which Turks are described in Persian Poetry?. 206

Unsound arguments made during the USSR era about the ethnicity of Nizami 211

False argument: A false verse created in 1980. 211

Incorrect argument: Nizami uses “Turkish words” so “he must be Turkish”. 214

Incorrect argument: Nizami Praises Seljuq Turks (or Turks) so he was half Turkic  221

Invalid Argument: Nizami wanted to write Turkish but he was forced to write in Persian! 238

The false statement from Stalin. 238

No evidence of Turkic literature in the Caucasus and historical invalidity of the argument due to Shirvanshah not being Persian and not Turkic rulers. 239

Example of politically minded writer today. 246

Criticial editions of the verses in question. 250

Translation and explanation of the introduction of Layli and Majnoon. 257

Misinterpretation of a verse in Haft Paykar 310

Incorrect argument: Nizami and his research into Dari-Persian and Arabic literature means that he was a Turk. 329

Incorrect argument: Nizami praises Alexander, so “he must have been a Turk”  334

Invalid arguments about  Idioms, Dedicatees, Eldiguzids, Sunni and Shi’i and other invalid arguments. 338

Alleged Claim of Turkish Idioms. 338

Eldiguzids-Feudal lords (Atabekan) of Azerbaijan. 343

Invalid arguments: Dedicatees of Nezami were Turks so Nezami was a Turk! 349

Invalid Argument: Court poetry and official language was in Persian and that is why Nezami wrote in Persian to get paid. 350

Sunni and Shi’i! 353

Conclusion of invalid arguments. 354

Nizami’s Iranian Background, Culture and Contribution to the Persian Language, Culture and Civilization. 355

Iranian background and some statements from scholars. 356

Nezami’s reference to himself as the Persian Dehqan. 359

Nizami’s reference to his wife and another proof of non-Turkic background for Nizami 363

Other Indicators of Nizami Ganjavi’s Father line. 369

Lack of Turkish names unlike Turkish dynasties and groups. 369

Urban background. 369

Shafiite Madhab. 370

Qom theory. 375

Intermarriage was rare between Western Iranians and Turks due to both religious and ethnic factors. 379

Nizami Ganjavi’s Culture. 381

Viewpoints of Navai and a perspective upon culture. 382

Nizami and the inheritance of Ferdowsi’s throne. 387

Cultural Content of the works of Nizami Ganjavi 394

Nizami Ganjavi’s attachment to Iran. 406

Conclusion. 407

Bibliography. 410

Appendix A: Modern scholastic sources. 415

Corrected information. 428

Appendix B: Response to two arguments with regards to the population of Turks in Caucasus. 431

Do “Turkish” soldiers in Baghdad during the early Abbasid period have anything to do with Caucasus and Azerbaijan. 431

Akbar Kitab al-Tijan: The Arab folklore Kitab al-Tijan and fight between mythical Yemenese Kings and Turanians/Turks in Azerbaijan has no historical validity.  On the background of Turanians. 435

Appendix C: Some important neglected sources in the study of Nezami Ganjavi 459

Appendix D: On the etymology of the name Axsartan. 460

 

Basic Nomenclature on ethnic names used in this writing

 

In this article we use the term Persian, Kurdish, Azeri, Iranic, Qipchaq, Oghuz and Turkic. It is important to have a clear definition with this regard.

 

Kurdish: Speaker of the dialects and languages considered Kurdish which is the NW Iranian language family. 

 

 

Persian: Is a native speaker of various Iranian dialects. This includes Pahlavi dialects as

well as NW Iranic languages identified as Fahlaviyyat and Azari during the middle ages and also the Parsi-Dari. The term Persian usually is not as a single linguistic term rather it denotes a speaker of variety any of the Iranic dialects who have pre-Islamic Sassanid heritage and Iranian mythology as exemplified by the Shahnameh. We will make a distinction when we speak of the Dari form of Persian (itself according to scholars the Khorasani dialect of Middle Persian) rather than what Qatran Tabrizi, Al-Masudi, Biruni and Nezami have called Persian (Parsi), which is the general definition.

 

 

Iranic: Means a native speaker of the Iranic languages. This term encompasses both Persian and Kurdish and various other Iranian speakers including Soghdians, Scythians, Medes and etc. In general it encompasses the totality of Iranian civilization and languages as well those with Iranian heritages.

 

Oghuz: Speaker of Oghuz dialects, mainly the western Turkic languages.

 

Qipchaq: Speakers of Qipchaq or similar eastern Turkic languages.

 

Turkic: Like Iranic, it denotes the speakers of Turkic languages. In Persian literature, the Mongols have also been considered as Turks since the bulk of the troops and tribes of the Mongol federation were of Turkic rather than Mongolic origin. Also the term Tatar has been used in this fashion. Thus Turkic encompasses the totality of various Turkic cultures, language and civilizations and the Altaic people.  It should be noted that however in early Islamic era, non-Altaic speakers such as Soghdians, Alans and Avesta Turanians etc. have also been lumped with Turks in some sources due to geographical reasons.  See Appendix B and C of this article for some observations with this regard.

 

Arabic: Native Arab speaker.

 

Armenian: Native Armenian speaker.

 

Georgian/Caucasian: Speaker of one of the languages that has been loosely classified as Caucasian languages by linguists of today.

 

On the ethnonym Azeri/Azerbaijani

 

The name Azerbaijan is a Persian word and goes back to the Persian Satrap of Media, Atropates.

Professor Vladimir Minorsky writes:

“Called in Middle Persian Aturpatakan, older new-Persian Adharbadhagan, Adharbayagan, at present Azarbaydj̲an, Greek ᾿Ατροπατήνη, Byzantine Greek ᾿Αδραβιγάνων, Armenian Atrapatakan, Syriac Adhorbayg̲han, the province was called after the general Atropates (“protected by fire”), who at the time of Alexander’s invasion proclaimed his independence (328 B.C.) and thus preserved his kingdom (Media Minor, Strabo, xi, 13, 1) in the north-western corner of later Persia (cf. Ibn al-Muqaffa, in Yaqūt, i, 172, and al-Maqdisi, 375: Adharbadh b. Biwarasf).

(Minorsky, V. “Adharbaydjan (Azarbaydjan) .”Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P.Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2007. Brill Online.)

Professor K. Shippmann states:

“In the Achaemenid period Azerbaijan was part of the satrapy of Media. When the Achaemenid Empire collapsed, Atropates, the Persian satrap of Media, made himself independent in the northwest of this region in 321 B.C. Thereafter Greek and Latin writers named the territory Media Atropatene or, less frequently, Media Minor (e.g. Strabo 11.13.1; Justin 23.4.13). The Middle Persian form of the name was (early) Aturpatakan, (later) Adurbadgan) whence the New Persian Adarbayjan”

(Encyclopedia Iranica, “Azerbaijan: Pre-Islamic History”, K. Shippmann).

The word Azari/Azeri has been used in the early Islamic period for a Persian related Iranian dialect. Naturally the name of the dialect was derived from the name of the region itself. We will make mention of this Iranic dialect later in the article.

But it is important to note that the ethnonym Azeri/Azerbaijani has been used no earlier than the late 19th century or the early 20th  century to designate Turkic speaking Shi’i Muslims(Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, “Turko-Tatars”)(Roy, Oliver. “The new Central Asia: The Creation of Nations”) and was really accepted as a self-designation around 1930.

The origin of Turkic speaking Azeris has been described as:

1)      Iranic

2)      Turkic

3)      Symbiosis of Iranic and Turkic

4)      Symbiosis of Iranic, Turkish and Caucasian peoples

 

 

According to the multi-volume book “History of the East” (“Transcaucasia in XI-XV centuries” in Rostislav Borisovich Rybakov (editor), History of the East. 6 volumes.  v. 2. “East during the Middle Ages: Chapter V., 2002. – ISBN 5-02-017711-3.  http://gumilevica.kulichki.com/HE2/he2510.htm )

 

 

The formation of a distinct Turkic speaking groups who speak the language called “Azerbaijani-Turkic”(note in Iran it is called Torki and the pre-fix “Azerbaijani” to Turkic is also recent) language occurred between 15th-16th century.

 

"Современная наука относит завершение сложения турецкой народности к концу XV в. Очевидно, так же следует датировать и сложение азербайджанского этноса"

Translation:

"Modern science considers the completion of addition of the Turkish nation by the end of XV century.  Obviously, the same should be dated and addition of the Azerbaijani ethnic group. "

 

The book also states that:

В XIV-XV вв. с началом формирования азербайджанского тюрко-язычного этноса возникает и его культура. Первоначально она не имела своих стабильных центров (вспомним, что один из ее ранних представителей, Несими, погиб в Сирии), и ее довольно трудно для данного времени отделить от османской (турецкой) культуры. Даже этническая граница между турками и азербайджанцами установилась только в XVI в., да и тогда она еще окончательно не определилась. Тем не менее в XV в. формируются два центра азербайджанской культуры - Южный Азербайджан и Карабах (равнинный). Окончательно они сложились уже позже, в XVI-XVIII вв.

Говоря о возникновении азербайджанской культуры именно в XIV-XV вв., следует иметь в виду прежде всего литературу и другие части культуры, органически связанные с языком. Что касается материальной культуры, то она оставалась традиционной и после тюркизации местного населения. Впрочем, наличие мощного пласта иранцев, принявших участие в формировании азербайджанского этноса, наложило свой отпечаток прежде всего на лексику азербайджанского языка, в котором огромное число иранских и арабских слов. Последние вошли и в азербайджанский, и в турецкий язык главным образом через иранское посредство.”

 

Translation:

In the XIV-XV cc., as the Azerbaijani Turkic-language ethnos was beginning to form, arose its culture, as well. At first it had no stable centers of its own (recall that one of its early representatives, Nesimi, met his death in Syria) and it is rather difficult at that time to separate from the Osman (Turkish) culture.  Even the ethnic boundary between the Turks and the Azerbaijanis stabilized only in the XVI c., and even then it was not quite defined yet. Nevertheless, in the XV c., two centers of the Azerbaijani culture are forming: the South Azerbaijan and (lowland) Karabakh. They took final shape later, in the XVI-XVIII cc.

Speaking of the Azerbaijan culture originating at that time, in the XIV-XV cc., one must bear in mind, first of all, literature and other parts of culture organically connected with the language. As for the material culture, it remained traditional even after the Turkicization of the local population. However, the presence of a massive layer of Iranians that took part in the formation of the Azerbaijani ethnos, have imposed its imprint, primarily on the lexicon of the Azerbaijani language which contains a great number of Iranian and Arabic words. The latter entered both the Azerbaijani and the Turkish language mainly through the Iranian intermediary. Having become independent, the Azerbaijani culture retained close connections with the Iranian and Arab cultures. They were reinforced by common religion and common cultural-historical traditions.”

Thus neither the ethnonym nor ethnic group nor language by the name Azerbaijani-Turk has been recorded in the 12th century.  Since this ethnonym Azeri/Azerbaijani was not in use during the time of Nizami to refer to any dialect and group of Turkic speaking people, then it is not used in this work.  Also one cannot necessarily talk of an Azerbaijani Turkic group in the 12th century as noted by the sources above (we will show Azerbaijan was far from Turkified by the 12th century using primary sources).  The fact remains that the ethnonym Azeri/Azerbaijani was not in use at the time of Nezami, although Azerbaijanis have a thick layer of Iranian culture as well. Thus to say Nezami was an Azerbaijani poet does not correspond to any historical fact, since the term Azerbaijani was not used for an ethnic group (it was a geographical location of NW Iran) and the Azerbaijani Turkic ethnic group was not formed back then.  He did not write in Azerbaijani-Turkish language (no one from 1140-1209 has written in that language from the Caucasus) and neither was the ethnic designation Azerbaijani used during or before his time.  The formation/ethno genesis of ethnic Azerbaijanis as a symbiosis and blending of Iranic, Turkic and Caucasian elements comes in a much later. Also the land of Nezami Ganjavi, where he might have been born (most likely Ganja according to modern scholars and a minority of manuscripts have said Qom in central Persia or some scholars have said his ancestry from his father-side was in Tafresh), was really called Arran rather than Azerbaijan by most historical/geographical sources at that time.   Indeed Nizami uses Arran, Armenia and Azarabadegan (Azerbaijan) and the majority of historical sources have differentiated between these three lands at the time of Nezami Ganjavi. 

 

Some might make a counter-argument that they want to use the term Oghuz Turk or Turkic in general instead of Azeri. In their opinions, modern Azerbaijanis are Oghuz Turks (also called Tatars by Russians). The difference between eastern Turkic (Qipchaq) and Western Turkic Oghuz had become significant at the time of Nizami. Thus they might even reduce it to Western Turkic. In any case, “Turk” is a very generic term as an ethnic indicator: Would it have suggested “Azeri Turkish” in Nezami’s day, or was there even yet such a language branched out from the common Oghuz? Definitely not - most likely it would suggest the Seljuq tribesmen, whom I believe were Oghuz, but around the same time, it could also refer to Khatai Turkic, or Uighur, Chaghatay, Turkoman, Mongol (Mongols and Turks being used interchangeably in Persian literature around the time of the Mongol invasion), Kipchaks, Chinese, and Tibetans(being identified with Turks in some Islamic literature like Qabusnama), Iranic Sogdians (they have been identified with Turks in some Arabic literature due to being neighbors of Turks) etc.? We have no exact data from those days, but we may assume that the various Turkic speakers, to the extent that they held a shared sense of identity, would do so on the basis of a similar language and nomadic lifestyles although tribal identifications would overtake any sort of shared cultural identity between these groups.

 

Here are what some scholars and authorities state on the ethno genesis of modern Azerbaijanis.  Some have stated that an Azerbaijani ethnic group was formed by the XIII centuries, however more specialized sources put it around the Safavid era XVI.  We believe the fact that Safina Tabrizi and Nozhat al-Majales (to be discussed later) show major urban centers of Arran, Sherwan and Azerbaijan to have been Iranic even in the Ilkhanid era are an elegant proof that the latter date of XVI is when Azerbaijan and Eastern Transcaucasia was decisively Turkified. 

 

 

Professor Richard Frye states:

The Turkish speakers of Azerbaijan are mainly descended from the earlier Iranian speakers, several pockets of whom still exist in the region

(Frye, Richard Nelson, “Peoples of Iran”, in Encyclopedia Iranica).

 

For example Professor Tadsuez Swietchowski states:

What is now the Azerbaijan Republic was known as Caucasian Albania in the pre-Islamic period, and later as Arran. From the time of ancient Media (ninth to seventh centuries B.C.) and the Persian Empire (sixth to fourth centuries B.C.), Azerbaijan usually shared the history of what is now Iran. According to the most widely accepted etymology, the name “Azerbaijan”is derived from Atropates, the name of a Persian satrap of the late fourth century B.C. Another theory traces the origin of the name to the Persian word azar (“fire”‘) - hence Azerbaijan, “the Land of Fire”, because of Zoroastrian temples, with their fires fueled by plentiful supplies of oil.

Azerbaijan maintained its national character after its conquest by the Arabs in the mid-seventh century A.D. and its subsequent conversion to Islam. At this time it became a province in the early Muslim empire. Only in the 11th century, when Oghuz Turkic tribes under the Seljuk dynasty entered the country, did Azerbaijan acquire a significant number of Turkic inhabitants. The original Persian population became fused with the Turks, and gradually the Persian language was supplanted by a Turkic dialect that evolved into the distinct Azerbaijani language. The process of Turkification was long and complex, sustained by successive waves of incoming nomads from Central Asia. After the Mongol invasions in the 13th century, Azerbaijan became a part of the empire of Hulagu and his successors, the Il-Khans. In the 15th century it passed under the rule of the Turkmens who founded the rival Qara Qoyunlu (Black Sheep) and Aq Qoyunlu (White Sheep) confederations. Concurrently, the native Azerbaijani state of the Shirvan-Shahs flourished.

(Swietochowski, Tadeusz. “AZERBAIJAN, REPUBLIC OF”,., Vol. 3, Colliers Encyclopedia CD-ROM, 02-28-1996)

 

“The mass of the Oghuz Turkic tribes who crossed the Amu Darya towards the west left the Iranian plateau, which remained Persian, and established themselves more to the west, in Anatolia. Here they divided into Ottomans, who were Sunni and settled, and Turkmens, who were nomads and in part Shiite (or, rather, Alevi). The latter were to keep the name “Turkmen”for a long time: from the 13th century onwards they “Turkised”the Iranian populations of Azerbaijan (who spoke west Iranian languages such as Tat, which is still found in residual forms), thus creating a new identity based on Shiism and the use of Turkish. These are the people today known as Azeris.”

(Olivier Roy. “The new Central Asia”, I.B. Tauris, 2007. Pg 7)

Although, we do not believe the Oghuz nomads were Shi’ites when they entered Iran, rather they were Hanafis. They turned to Shi’ism probably due to the Ilkhanid atmosphere where Shi’ism was supported by some Ilkhanid rulers like Sultan Khodabanda.  A further testament to this fact is that there is not Turkic Shi’ites in Central Asia and thus the adoption of Shi’ism by Turkic speaking tribes occurred in Anatolia and Persia.

Professor Peter Golden has written one the most comprehensive book on Turkic people called An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples (Peter B. Golden. Otto Harrasowitz, 1992). Professor Golden confirms that the Medes were Iranians and Iranian languages like Talyshi/Tati speakers being assimilated into Turkish speakers. Considering the Turkic penetration in Caucasian Azerbaijan and the Turkification of large parts of  North Western Persia, Professor Golden states in pg 386 of his book:

Turkic penetration probably began in the Hunnic era and its aftermath. Steady pressure from Turkic nomads was typical of the Khazar era, although there are no unambiguous references to permanent settlements. These most certainly occurred with the arrival of the Oguz in the 11th century. The Turkicization of much of Azarbayjan, according to Soviet scholars, was completed largely during the Ilxanid period if not by late Seljuk times. Sumer, placing a slightly different emphasis on the data (more correct in my view), posts three periods which Turkicization took place: Seljuk, Mongol and Post-Mongol (Qara Qoyunlu, Aq Qoyunlu and Safavid). In the first two, Oguz Turkic tribes advanced or were driven to the western frontiers (Anatolia) and Northern Azarbaijan (Arran, the Mugan steppe). In the last period, the Turkic elements in Iran (derived from Oguz, with lesser admixture of Uygur, Qipchaq, Qaluq and other Turks brought to Iran during the Chinggisid era, as well as Turkicized Mongols) were joined now by Anatolian Turks migrating back to Iran. This marked the final stage of Turkicization. Although there is some evidence for the presence of Qipchaqs among the Turkic tribes coming to this region, there is little doubt that the critical mass which brought about this linguistic shift was provided by the same Oguz-Turkmen tribes that had come to Anatolia. The Azeris of today are an overwhelmingly sedentary, detribalized people. Anthropologically, they are little distinguished from the Iranian neighbors.

It should be noted that Professor Golden on pg 12 of the same book states:

“Turkic population of today shows extraordinary physical diversity, certainly much greater than that of any group of Altaic language. The original Turkish physical type, if we can really posit such, for it should be borne in mind that this mobile population was intermixing with its neighbors at a very stage, was probably of the Mongloid type(in all likelihood in its South Siberian variant). With may deduce this from the fact that populations in previously Europoid areas of Iranian speech begin to show Mongoloid influences coincidental with the appearances of Turkic people. The physical transformation of these Turkicizing peoples, however, illustrated by the population of Uzbekistan, Karakalpakia and especially the Turkic population of Iran and Turkey itself. To add to the complexity of this process, the Turkic populations that moved to Central Asia were themselves already mixed. In general, then, the further east, the more Mongloid the Turkic population is; the further west, the more Europoid”

We shall affirm this fact by showing the description of Turks in classical Persian literature in another section. Indeed, this physical description, as described by countless poets including Nizami was Mongloid rather than Caucasoid and this point to the Turkification of the mainly Caucasoid-featured population by the Mongolid-featured Altaic groups.

According to Professor Xavier De Planhol:

“Azeri material culture, a result of this multi-secular symbiosis, is thus a subtle combination of indigenous elements and nomadic contributions, but the ratio between them is remains to be determined. The few researches undertaken (Planhol, 1960) demonstrate the indisputable predominance of Iranian tradition in agricultural techniques (irrigation, rotation systems, terraced cultivation) and in several settlement traits (winter troglodytism of people and livestock, evident in the widespread underground stables). The large villages of Iranian peasants in the irrigated valleys have worked as points for crystallization of the newcomers even in the course of linguistic transformation; these places have preserved their sites and transmitted their knowledge. The toponyms, with more than half of the place names of Iranian origin in some areas, such as the Sahand, a huge volcanic massif south of Tabriz, or the Qara Dagh, near the border (Planhol, 1966, p. 305; Bazin, 1982, p. 28) bears witness to this continuity. The language itself provides eloquent proof. Azeri, not unlike Uzbek (see above), lost the vocal harmony typical of Turkish languages. It is a Turkish language learned and spoken by Iranian peasants.”

(X. Planhol, Encyclopedia Iranica, “Iran: Lands of Iran”)

Professor Gernot Windfuhr in the article: Isoglosses: A Sketch on Persians and Parthians, Kurds and Medes, in Hommages et Opera Minora, Monumentum H. S. Nyberg, Vol. 2., Acta Iranica 5. Tehran-Liège: Bibliothèque Pahlavi, 457-472. On pg 468, he writes:

One may add that the overlay of a strong superstate by a dialect from the eastern parts of Iran does not imply the conclusion that ethnically all Kurdish speakers are from the east, just as one would hesitate to identify the majority of Azarbayjani speakers as ethnic Turks. The majority of those who now speak Kurdish most likely were formerly speakers of Median dialect.

It is important to note that the Oghuz Turks who Turkified Azerbaijan linguistically were not themselves pure Turks according to Mahmud Kasghari. Although without a doubt Turkic speaking, Turkology expert N. Light comments on this in his Turkic literature and the politics of culture in the Islamic world (1998):

“... It is clear that he [al-Kashgari] `a priori´ excludes the Oghuz, Qipchaq and Arghu from those who speak the pure Turk language. These are the Turks who are most distant from Kashghari’s idealized homeland and culture, and he wants to show his Arab readers why they are not true Turks, but contaminated by urban and foreign influences. Through his dictionary, he hopes to teach his readers to be sensitive to ethnic differences so they do not loosely apply the term Turk to those who do not deserve it. ...”

N. Light further explains:

“... Kashgari clearly distinguishes the Oghuz language from that of the Turks when he says that Oghuz is more refined because they use words alone which Turks only use in combination, and describes Oghuz as more mixed with Persian ...”

The actual Arabic statement of Kashghari is follows:

«الغزیة لما اختلطت بلفرس نسیت کثیراً من لغت الترک و استعملت الفارسیه مکانها ج.ا، شماره 73)

Translation:

The Ghuzz due having mixed with Persians (Iranians/Fars) have forgotten many Turkic words and use Persian words instead.

 

Taymas, Abdullah Battal. “Divan Lagait – Turk Tercumesi”, Turkiyat Mecmuasi, Cilt (XI), Istanbul. 1954, pg. 76”

 

There are others opinions but we believe that a symbiosis between Iranian and Turkic elements (where the Oghuz nomads themselves before entering Azerbaijan and the Caucasia had already assimilated some Iranian nomads in Central Asia) formed the ethnicity of modern Azerbaijanis in the Caucasus and Iran, although the number of Turkmen nomads who entered Azerbaijan and Caucasia was small relative to the original population.  The Turkmens of Iran and Turkmenistan, all of them nomads till the last century, also speak an Oghuz dialect which has been described as more archaic than that of the Turkish of NW Iran, Caucasia and Anatolia. There are probably many similarities between them and the Oghuz nomads who entered Azerbaijan during the Seljuq prelude and Turkmens of Iran and Turkmenistan.

 

Since the term Azeri/Azerbaijani as an ethnic term for the speakers of Turkic languages in Iran and Caucasia was adopted in the late 19th century(possibly some Russian works might have used Azerbaijani-Tatar and shortened it to Azerbaijani) or early 20th , we will not use it in this article.  If some feel the identification of Azerbaijani Turk with Oghuz Turks because of linguistic reason, then we have used the term Oghuz Turks and Turkic in this article.  Because the terms Oghuz and Turk are historical term that had been in use since at least 10th century.  On the other hand, the ethnic name Azeri/Azerbaijani Turkic was not accepted until the 1920s or 1930s by its speakers and the overwhelming reference to ”Azerbaijani” without any suffix is geographical in the period before the adoption of this name for ethnic identification.

 

As noted by Oliver Roy:

The concept of Azeri identity barely appears at all before 1920.  Up until that point Azerbaijan had been a purely geographical area.  Before 1924, the Russians called Azeri Tatars "Turk" or "Muslims".(Roy, Oliver. “The new Central Asia: The Creation of Nations”).

 

According to Prof. Tadeusz Swietochowski: "Azerbaijani" was coined in the 1930s to refer to the inhabitants of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.(Azerbaijan Seven Years of Conflict Nagorno-Karabagh – Human Rights Watch / Helsinki– December 1994 by Human Rights Watch).

 

Overall then, the term Azeri/Azerbaijani was overwhelmingly and primarily used as a geographical area before 1930 and also designates inhabitants of the newly formed state of Azerbaijan regardless of their ethnicity (Talysh, Tat, Azeris, Lezgins, Kurds, Armenians).  So words like “Azerbaijan poet” or “Azerbaijani poet” might have been used a geographical designation for some poets of the area by scholars, but they did not have any sort of ethnic meaning and were purely geographical.  Just like Khorasani poets or Khwarizmi Poet or Esfahani Poet or Shirazi poet..and etc is geographical.  Some authors also distinguish between “Azerbaijani” and “Azeri”.  “Azerbaijani” means citizen of the republic of Azerbaijan or from the land of Azerbaijan where-as “Azeri” means the native speaker of Azeri Turkic.

 

In any event, we shall show from Nizami and the writing of other Persian poets, the physical features of Turk are clearly described as Mongloid and do not resemble those of the Caucasoid Anatolian and Azerbaijani Turkic speakers  This alongside recent genetic evidence indicates that a language replacement via elite dominance is a likely explanation of the Turkification of Anatolia, Caucasia and Iranian Azerbaijan. Nizami does use Iranians, Parsi/’Ajam(Persian) ,Kurd(Kurd), Taazi(Arab), Turk(Oghuz, Qipchaq, Khatai..), Alan and Rus (the Viking Rus) and etc. So we will use the terminology used during his time and this is the correct historiography that diligent historians of that era utilize.  We should note that term ‘Ajam was originally used by Arabs for Iranians but slowly this term became accepted and even Iranian nationalist poets like Ferdowsi and Asadi Tusi have used it in a positive manner and Nezami who was influenced by these two poets has also used it interchangeably with Parsi.  Also Khaqani’s title was the Persian Hessān al-‘Ajam (the Persian Hessan, Hessan being a very famous Arab poet before Islam and Khaqani is the Persian version of him by this title). 

 

  It should be noted that Nezami has specifically himself mentioned the area where he lived as part of the “Persian realm” which is a cultural and geographical term.  The reader can also see the section: Regional Iranian Culture and Nezami’s designation of Iran/Persian for his land of this article for further usage of these terms.

 

Usage of Azerbaijani to describe Nezami based on geography is also not valid at Nizami’s time (although he was born in the territory that is called Azerbaijan today), since the territory around Ganja usually was primarily called Arran rather than Azerbaijan in medieval history.  Thus we should mention that some Western sources and possibly other sources have used the term Azerbaijani or Azerbaijan poet (not ethnic sense since such a name was not adopted until the 1930s and before 1930s its primarily and overwhelming usage was geographic) for Nezami as a geographical designation, but this is not historically valid as Nizami himself uses the terms Aran, Arman and Azarabadegaan.  Also Nezami has praised three different rulers as rulers of Iran/Persian and Persian lands, and this shows that not only culture but the land was considered part of the geographical/cultural region of Persia/Iran.

 

An example of erroneously using this term and anachronism is for example given by this quote by a noted scholar:"In the fifteenth century a native Azeri state of Shirvanshahs flourished north of the Araxes." (Tadeusz Swietochowski. Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition, Columbia University, 1995, p. 2.)

Yet the Shirvanshah called their territory Shirwan, not Azerbaijan.  Also the Shirwanshah were not ethnically Turkic, but were a mixture of Iranians and Arabs and culturally they were Persians.  And also “Azeri” denotes the native Turkic speaker where-as Azerbaijani would at least have geographical meaning. 

 

This sort of wrong and anachronistic application of geographical name has unfortunately occurred many times and has been used for various poets and scientific figures. 

 

 An inquirer asked one academic writer who used this term:

 

In the book “Early Mongol Rule in Thirteenth-century Iran” on page 65 you wrote “The renowned Azerbaijani poet, Nizami of…”.
What do you mean with “Azerbaijani poet Nizami”? Ethnic, cultural, geographical or other characteristic?

 

The Author of the book who used the term responded back:

 

geographical. The whole subject of nationalities is fraught with controversy since in mediaeval times nation-states did not exist people could not so easily be labeled. Often people were defined by their city, e.g. Samarqandi, Balkhi, though often by the region, Rumi. Nizami has been claimed by the modern state of Azerbaijan though he continues to be considered a Persian poet and for the student seeking further information Azerbaijan could be a starting point for their research. You should not read too much into such labels. George Lane

 

Despite this, we should note that Ganja at that time was part of Arran and the area was not called Azerbaijan.  So indeed this is a wrong and anachronistic application of the geographical conventions.  At the same time, it illustrates that by this convention, is being used as a modern geographical location(Azeri, Azerbaijani) and not necessarily culture, ethnicity, language and heritage. 

 

Also as the author who responded back noted, the concept of nation-state did not exist back then.  This is an important point which some people have not unfortunately grasped.  So for example to speak of Iranian or Turkic or Azeri or Arab or Armenian or Georgian  citizenship or nationality(based on citizenship rather than culture/ethnicity) at that era does not make sense since the ethnicity of the ruler had no implication on the citizenship (e.g. Seljuqs controlled Iran but overwhelming majority of the inhabitants were neither Turks or Seljuqians and no one identified their identity through a state). 

 

So for example the Buyids were an “Iranian State”(meaning an Iranic-speaking ruling elite controlled a state) but they controlled areas (such as Iraq) that had a substantial non-Iranian population.  Those non-Iranian population will not be considered Iranians ethnically or culturally just because the Buyids were Iranian rulers(which some might call “Iranian State”).  The same is true with Seljuqs or the semi-autonomous Atabeks who had established a state with Turkic ruling elite, but their main population was non-Turkic and so the identity of their inhabitants should not be erroneously described as the citizenship/nationality(based on state not ethnicity/language)/nation-state concepts that did not exist at that time.

 

As per the term Azari, there was an ancient Azari-Fahlavi language or group of dialects spoken in Iranian-Azerbaijan (Atrapatakan) (remnants of it being the Tati in Iran), but this was an Iranic language. We shall touch upon this later. Scientifically, one cannot impose a different space and time upon medieval historical settings. So at the time of Nizami Ganjavi, the term Azerbaijani did not denote a subset of Turkic speakers.  At his time, the overwhelming majority of the sources have referred to the area of Ganja as part of Arran.  For example, to say, Homer was Turkish because he was born in the land of Turkey does not seem correct. Certainly the people of Turkey should be proud of him that such a great figure has come from their land, but to assign him the modern majority ethnicity Turkish of Turkey does not make sense since such a term even did not exist nor is attested during the time of Homer. This author is of the opinion of Professor Xavier Planhol:

“Azeri material culture, a result of this multi-secular symbiosis, is thus a subtle combination of indigenous elements and nomadic contributions, but the ratio between them is remains to be determined.”

 

Thus just like ancient Egyptians spoke ancient Egyptian, but modern Egyptians speak Arabic, it does not mean that ancient Egyptians are not connected to modern Egyptians.  Same with modern Turks of Anatolia who also share in the pre-Turkic Greek civilization.   Although it should be mentioned that there are Iranian speakers in some of these countries although many of them have become Turcophones gradually in the last several hundred years and rapidly in last century.  The difference with Iranian cultural items that are claimed by modern Turkic speaking countries (Biruni, Rudaki, and Avicenna in Uzbekistan; Nizami, Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism, Bahmanyar.. in the Republic of Azerbaijan; and Abu Said Abul Khair in Turkmenistan) is that there are also countries that speak Iranian languages and Persian in particular, thus they rightfully also claim to be inheritors of these Iranian cultural items, since the culture has continued.  Especially for such a poet as Nizami Ganjavi, who only wrote in Persian and contributed to the Persian culture and language, expanded Persian myths and legends and finally came from an Iranian background.  In the end, these countries (both Iranian speaking and Turkic speaking) have a shared heritage due to the fact that some of these Turkic countries had a linguistic shift from Iranian languages to Turkish languages due to migration of Turkic nomads and the Turkification of some of the lands.  The question of whether Nizami belongs to Iranian civilization or Turkic civilization is something we will discuss in this article. We also note that modern nationalism especially that of pan-Turkism which has also influenced Caucasia, was a reactionary movement spawning out of the decay and disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Thus that secular identity created by it today (which is based on ethno-nationalism as seen in modern Turkey and republic of Azerbaijan) in our opinion is radically different than the identities of the Caucasia and Ottoman Empire prior to this period.  For a clear picture of identity of the Caucasus in the 12th century, one can look at the book Nozhat al-Majales which we shall discuss later in this article.

 

What did the USSR mean by Azerbaijani?

 

Since the ethnonym Azerbaijani for an ethnic group was new, the USSR era did not provide a clear definition.  For example some considered Azerbaijanis to be Medes, others as Turks and others as Caucasian Albanians.  Then there was theories combining some or all of these.  This is another reason why calling Nezami Ganjavi as “Azerbaijani” in the politicized USSR sources lacks clarity.  Do they mean Medes(and the descendant of Iranic Medes like Talysh, Kurds?), or Caucasian Albanians or Turks and etc.


For  example  Bolukbashi mentions:

 

“During the Stalin era, Azeri historians were forced to link Azeri history to Persian Medes, whose appearance in Iran and the southern Caucasus dates back to the ninth century BC.  In the post-Stalin era, this theory gave away to one which linked the Azeris’ origin to the Atropathenes and Caucasian Albania.  By the early 1970s, however, the Turkic role in Azeri history had begun to be admitted, so that until the Gorbachev era the Azerbaijani historiography based Azeri identity on a combination of the Medes, the Atropathenes, the Albanians and the Turkic settlers, a formula which helped prevent the emergence of an all-Turkic historiography”

(Susha Bolukbashi,  ‘Nation building in Azerbaijan: The Soviet Legacy and the Impact of the Karabakh Conflict’ in Van Schendel, Willem(Editor) . Identity Politics in Central Asia and the Muslim World: Nationalism, Ethnicity and Labour in the Twentieth Century. London , GBR: I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited, 2001.)

 

Arya Wasserman notes:

 

“The growing interest in the nationalities problem and the rising influence of the ideology of Turkism revived the old controversy over the ethnogenesis of the Azerbaijani people, that is between adherents of the concept of the decisive Turkic role and supporters of the pro-Iranian theory.  In the mid 1970s, the republican authorities headed by the First Secretary Heydar Aliev had resolved the debate by ruling in favour of the Iranian concept.  Now, for the first time monographs dedicated of this problem were published.  The purely scientific problem of ethnogenesis became a regular theme in newspapers.  The authors of some articles used this discussion to express their opposition to the policy of Turkicization.  Politicians also intervened in the dispute.  The President’s adviser on nationalities, Idaiat Orujev, supported the concept according to which Azerbaijan was the homeland of Oguz Turks, which obviously meant that he was inclined to accept the theory of the Turkic origins of the Azerbaijani people. 

 

Opponents of the proto-Turkic conceptions of ethnogenesis of the Azerbaijani people insist that the Kurds, Talysh, Lakhij and other Persian-speaking peoples are ethnic Azerbaijanis, who had a part from ancient times in the ethnogenesis of the Azerbaijani people, and that all of them share the same Caspian racial type, to which no other Turkic-speaking peoples, not even the Turks themselves, belong to”

(Aryeh Wasserman, “A Year of Rule by the Popular Front of Azerbaijan” in Yaacov Roi, “Muslim Eurasia”, Routeldge, 1995. pp 150-152.)

 

Thus the usage of “Azerbaijani” as an ethnic term was recent and doing the USSR era, the term did not necessarily mean Turcophone people.  Now, today the designation “Azeri” and “Azerbaijani” are further confused because Azerbaijani has been used as a geographical term since 1918 for all inhabitants of Eastern Southern Caucasus (corresponding to the modern republic of Azerbaijan) where as “Azeri” denotes the Oghuz Azerbaijani-Turkic speaker of that area.  But for the USSR, it seems to have meant a combination of Turks, Iranians and Caucasian Albanians who became Turcophones.  Prior to that, the term was mainly geographical and it could be possible some authors after 1918 have referred to Nezami as an Azerbaijani/Azerbaijanian poet noting that he lived most if not all of his life in Ganja.  However, such an ethnic formation had not yet occurred during the time of Nezami Ganjavi as noted.  Thus the article will not use anachronistic terms and will stick with terms such as Persian, Iranic, Turkic, Oghuz, Kurds and etc. 

Politicization of Nizami by the USSR and its Remnants Today

The reason to write this article is due to the fact that the USSR politicized and even distorted the character of Nizami Ganjavi for the purpose of nation building. Remnant of that period still can be seen in some modern post-USSR texts.  The USSR tried to detach Nizami Ganjavi from Iranian civilization and use him for nation building. In this section we show many of political manipulations surrounding the figure of Nizami Ganjavi. We will evaluate the merit of the arguments of the USSR era in a later section and show its invalidity.  So in this section, we prove that politicization of the figure of Nizami Ganjavi and the USSR’s efforts to detach him from Persian and Iranian culture and appropriate him to an ethnic and cultural Turkic label. (Something we believe lacks any evidence when one actually reads Nizami’s works and considers the cultural background of his work).  For example, in recent years, false verses that are not in any edition or manuscripts of the works of Nizami have found their way on the internet and are quoted extensively by nationalistic sites.

 

One of these false verses is as follows:

پدر بر پدر مر مرا ترک بود

به فرزانگی هر یکی گرگ بود

Translation:

Father upon father of mine were all Turks,

 In wisdom each one of them was a wolf”!

 

The problems with the above verse is that not only it is not found in any extant manuscript of Nizami Ganjavi’s work, but also the words “Tork/Turk” do not rhyme with the words “Gorg/Gurg”(Wolf). For more on the history of the falsification of this verse which was traced back to 1980 in Azerbaijan SSR see:

 

جلال متینی، «سندی معتبر بودن بر در ترک بودن نظامی گنجوی!»، ایرانشناسی، سال 4, 1371.

 

Matini, J. “A solid proof on the Turkic roots of Nizami Ganjavi?!”, Iranshenasi, Volume 4, 1371 (1992-1993).

 

Other times, poetry from Turkic language poets are ascribed to Nizami Ganjavi. Since Nizami Ganjavi wrote all his works in Persian, this has led to some nationalist pan-Turkist groups making such unfounded claims.  For example, a news report appeared where two pan-Turkist nationalists have claimed that they have found the Divan of Nizami Ganjavi in Turkish.

 

Here is a link for such a news item:

http://www.apa.az/en/news.php?id=28178

Nizami Ganjavi’s divan in Turkish published in Iran

[08 Jun 2007 13:17]

Divan of Nizami Ganjavi in Turkish was found in Khedivial library of Egypt, poet and researcher Sadiyar Eloglu told the APA exclusively.

Eloglu said that he is analyzing Nizami Ganjavi’s divan in Turkish. He added that the divan was found by Iranian researcher of Azerbaijani origin Seid Nefisi 40 years ago in Khedivial library but for some reasons the scientist did not analyze the book.

Poetess from Maraga Fekhri Vahizeden living in Egypt found the divan two years ago and sent a copy of it to Sadiyar Eloglu. The scientist has been analyzing the work for two years. He said that the claims denying the works’belonging to Nizami Ganjavi were not proved.

“Historical points and personalities noted in the works were Nizami Ganjavi’s contemporaries,”he said. He noted that 213 couplets in the divan were proved to be written by Nizami Ganjavi.

Eloglu has already published these poems in Iran. /APA/

 

This Turkish Diwan was found to be from a poet named Nizami Qunavi (d. 1469 or 1473) from the Ottoman Empire and it is written in the Ottoman Turkish language.

 

محمدعلی کریمزاده تبریزی، «دیوان ترکی نظامی گنجوی!»، ایرانشناسی، سال هفدهم، شماره-ی سوم، 1384.

See:

Tabrizi, Mohammad Ali Karim Zadeh. “The (supposed) Turkish Diwan of Nizami Ganjavi!”, Iranshenasi, Seventeenth year, Volume 3, 2005.

 

See also:

(Osman G. Oguzdenli, “Nezami Qunavi” in Encylopedia Iranica)

 

We will later show that at the time of Nizami Ganjavi, not a single verse of Turkish has ever been written from the area and essentially there is no proof that a Turkish literary tradition existed in the Caucasia (Arran) or Azerbaijan at that time.

 

False arguments created by the USSR, like “Nizami was forced to write Persian for the Shirvanshah”, based on misinterpretation of verses shall also be dealt with in this article.

 

Another nationalistic writer who has equated Azeris with Turks (unlike what we wrote) has written: “Although Nizami did not produce his work in Azeri language, his narratives are, nonetheless, rooted in Azeri culture and tradition.”

 

The reader is surprised by the above writer since he must think that the Sassanid heritage (like the stories of Khusraw o Shirin, Haft Paykar) or the Irano-Islamic rendition of Alexander (Eskandarnama) or the Persianized story (by Nizami) of Layli o Majnoon have their roots in Turkic cultures and tradition.  Such nationalistic outbursts are common from ethnic nationalistic scholars but they lack any scientific basis.   

 

So what is the root of all these modern forgeries? Why is there a need to retroactively Turkify Nizami Ganjavi by attributing to him works that are not his? What is the purpose of creating false verses within the last 30 years or so in order to attribute Grey Wolf myths to Nizami Ganjavi? What is the origin of the false argument that “Nizami was forced to write in Persian” or Nizami was “a victim of Persian Chauvinism”!?

 

We must seek the root of all these forgeries by going back to the nation-building period of the USSR. I always bring the example of famous Russian poet Pushkin when some nationalists make their claims about Nizami and attribute him to Turkic civilization. Pushkin was of Ethiopian origin (his grandfather was Tsar Peter the Great’s slave). However, he considered himself and is widely regarded as a Russian poet, and not Ethiopian poet. No one makes even an attempt to talk about Pushkin’s ethnic origin and question his place in Russian literature or assign him to Ethiopian literature! In the case of Nizami Ganjavi however, false verses and unsound reasons were invented (as we shall see mainly misinterpretation of verses associated with the introduction of Layli o Majnoon) to claim him of non-Iranian origin and detach him from the Iranian culture world.  So unlike Pushkin were one can reliably confirm some Ethiopian ancestry, there is absolutely nothing to suggest Nezami was Turkic, where-as he was at least half Iranic and we will show in this article that he was full Iranic based on different valid arguments.  The USSR attempted to disconnect him from the category of Persian literature altogether and to assign him to the non-existent category (during Nizami’s time) of Azeri literature , where-as Azeri-Turkic is a branch of Turkic and Nizami Ganjavi does not have a single verse in that language and actually the first evidence of poetry from that language from Azerbaijan or Anatolia or Caucasia comes many years after Nizami.

 

The Encyclopedic Dictionary Brockhaus and Efron, published between 1890-1906 (before the USSR) has an entry on Nizami Ganjavi. It goes as:

Nizamy (Sheikh Nizamoddin Abu-Mohemmed Ilyas ibn-Yusof) is the best romantic Persian poet (1141-1203), born in Cumsky (Qom), but the nickname is “Ganjevi (Gandzhinsky) because most of life spent in Gunja (now Elizavetpol), and there however died.

 

За свою поэму “Хосров и Ширина”(1180), посвященную азербайджанским атабекам, Н. был призван ко двору, но очень скоро удалился от его суеты и вел жизнь аскетическую.”

 

http://be.sci-lib.com/article071752.html

 

It is worthy to check what the Encyclopedia Britannica 1911 with this regard. Under Nizami, it is written:

“Nizam-uddin Abu Mohammad Ilyas bin Yusuf, Persian Poet, was born 535 A.H. (1141 A.D.”

 

We note that before the USSR, not a single book or article has described Nizami Ganjavi as Turkic poet.  Even as will be shown later, a Turkic nationalist like the Chagatai poet Alisher Navai considers Nizami Ganjavi as a Persian and not a Turk.  This indeed shows how Nezami’s cultural heritage and background was ascertained 200-300 years after his own time. 

 

So what did occur during the USSR era? For the readers in Persian, there is an article by Professor Sergei Aghajanian which has outlined exactly what has occurred:

 

سرگی آقاجانیان.، «پنجاهمین سالگرد یک تحریف تاریخی، به مناسبت هشتصد و پنجاهمین سالگرد تولد نظامی»، ایران شناسی، سال 4، شمارۀ یک (بهار 1371).

 

Sergei Aghajanian, “The fiftieth anniversary of a historical distortion: On the occasion of the 850th anniversary of the birth of Nizami”, Iranshenasi, 4th year, Volume 1, 1992-1993.

 

According to Aghajanian, around 1930 or so, Nizami Ganjavi’s heritage was changed to Azerbaijani from Persian and the USSR political committee decided to detach him from Persian literature and incorporate him into Azerbaijani literature.  Of course part of it had to do with the fact that a new country by the name Azerbaijan was formed in 1918 and the name persisted as Azerbaijan SSR during the USSR era. Thus one argument was that since Nizami was from Ganja, then he is Azerbaijanian (which he would have been from a citizenship perspective had he been born in the 20th century and the concept of nation state existed! But it did not exist in the 12 century!). This argument again is misplacing both time and space. During Nizami Ganjavi’s time, the region was called Arran and in general, the Islamic-Iranian culture was a continuously present throughout the whole urban Eastern Muslim world, especially in the Caucasia. Also as we mentioned, later on Azerbaijani despite the quotes we brought, has taken to be equivalent to Turkic by some authors.

 

Interestingly enough, the writer of the 1897 (Brockhaus and Efron) wrote “Persian and its literature” in 1900 and also its third edition in 1912 all mentioning Nizami as Persian poet.  But because of the political climate in 1939(see below and the Appendix), he wrote a monograph “Nizami and his contemporaries” claiming:

 

“"We should fully realize and accept Azerbaijani Nizami, of course, was true Azerbaijani poet,  and Heroes" Leila and Majnun " is not the Arabs from an Arab legend, but Turkic romantic heroes.””

Such baseless claims like Lili o majnoon was a Turkic legend!  Or Nizami was Azerbaijani poet (rather than Persian poet) were made during the political atmosphere of 1930s and onward.

In the book Russia and her Colonies, Walter Kolarz exposes the USSR’s anti-Iranian schemes (both cultural and territorial) and support of irredentist policy vis-à-vis Iranian Azerbaijan:

“Whilst trying to link Azerbaidzhani culture as closely as possible with Russian culture, the Soviet regime is equally eager to deny the existence of close cultural ties between Azerbaidzhan and Persia. The fact that most of the great poets brought forth by Azerbaidzhan in the past wrote mainly in Persian does not discourage the Soviet theoreticians, who are working out the ideological basis of Soviet nationalities policy. They declare categorically that everything produced by poets born in Azer­baidzhan ‘belongs to the Azerbaidzhani people,’notwithstanding the language in which the works of the so-called Azerbaidzhani poets were written. (46) According to this theory the Persians have no right to claim any of the outstanding poets who had written in the Persian language; if, nevertheless, they do advance such a claim they are immediately branded as guilty of ‘pan-Iranianism’.

The attempt to ‘annex’ an important part of Persian literature and to transform it into ‘Azerbaidzhani literature’ can be best exemplified by the way in which the memory of the great Persian poet Nizami (1141-1203) is exploited in the Soviet Union. The Soviet regime does not pay tribute to Nizami as a great representative of world literature, but is mainly interested in him as a ‘poet of the Soviet Union’, which he is considered to be because he was born in Gandzha in the territory of the present Azerbaidzhani Soviet Republic. The Soviet regime proclaims its ownership over Nizami also by ‘interpreting’ his works in accordance with the general pattern of Soviet ideology. Thus the leading Soviet journal Bolshevik stressed that Nizami’s ‘great merit’consisted in having undermined Islam by ‘opposing the theological teaching of the un­changeable character of the world’. (47) 

Stalin himself intervened in the dispute over Nizami and gave an authoritative verdict on the matter. In a talk with the Ukrainian writer, Mikola Bazhan, Stalin referred to Nizami as ‘the great poet of our brotherly Azerbaidzhani people’ who must not be surrendered to Iranian literature, despite having written most of his poems in Persian [Note by the author of the present article: It should be noted that not a single verse of Turkish was ever written by Nizami and his mother was Kurdish and his works point to a father of Iranic background]. Stalin even quoted to Bazhan a passage from Nizami where the poet said that he was forced to use the Persian language because he was not allowed to talk to the people in their native tongue [Note by the writer of this present article: Shirvanshahs were not Turkic speaking and Nizami wrote his introduction after completing the story of the Layli and Majnoon. The verse in question has to do with Ferdowsi and Mahmud, and Nizami through the mouth of Shirvanshah’s versifies that we are not unfaithful like Turks, so we need eloquent speech not low speech. This issue has been expanded upon by the Iranian writer Abbas Zarin Khoi and this invalid claim will be examined in detail later]. (48)

Thus in Stalin’s view Nizami is but a victim of Persian centralism and of a denationalization policy directed against the ancestors of the Azer­baidzhani Turks. Nizami is not a Persian poet, but a historical witness of Persian oppression of ‘national minorities’. It is by no means sur­prising that Stalin should take this line or that he should attach the greatest importance to everything that would undermine Persia’s cul­tural and political prestige. Stalin’s interest in Persia is that of a Georg­ian rather than that of a Russian. In spite of being, as we have seen, a bad Georgian nationalist in many other respects, he is animated as far as Persia is concerned by a traditional Georgian animosity against the ‘hereditary enemy’. To gain economic and political influence in Persia is traditional Russian policy ever since Peter the Great, but the Soviet Government, thanks to Stalin’s influence, has done more than follow in the footsteps of Czarist diplomacy.  It has put into effect new methods to disintegrate Persia, methods which only a Caucasian neighbour of the Persians and an expert on nationality problems could design.

THE OTHER AZERBAIDZHAN

Even before the Second World War the Soviet authorities of Moscow and Baku knew that autonomist and separatist movements would emerge one day in Persia, particularly among the Turks of Persian Azerbaidzhan.  It was felt however that some time might elapse before conditions would be ripe for launching a ‘national liberation’campaign in Persia. The organ of the Soviet of Nationalities, Revolyutsiya i Natsionalnosti, stated as late as 1930 that the Azerbaidzhani Turks of Persia never ceased to consider themselves as an integral part of the Pahlevi monarchy and continued to supply both leaders and pioneers for the Persian national movement. However, the same article forecast that the growth of Turkic culture in Soviet Azerbaidzhan and the attraction of the Baku oilfields would play their part in awakening the Turkic national consciousness of the people of Persian Azerbaidzhan. (49)

The ‘awakening’of the Azerbaidzhani Turks came earlier than the Soviet sociologists could have foreseen in 1930, and was a direct conse­quence of the Russian military occupation of Northern Persia of 1941-46. During this occupation the Persian Azerbaidzhani were brought into close contact with the people of the Azerbaidzhani Soviet Republic, and it is small wonder that the idea of a union took shape in the two Azerbaidzhans, which, though widely differing economically and politically, are united by the bond of a common language. With the assistance of the ‘brothers from the North’this Turkic language - ignored under Persian rule - was given the first place in education and administration all over Persian Azerbaidzhan. An Azerbaidzhani university and an Azerbaidzhani National Museum were opened; Azerbaidzhani books and newspapers were either printed on the spot or imported from Soviet Azerbaidzhan. While contact between Tabriz, the capital of Persian Azerbaidzhan, and Teheran was practically cut off; the most advanced Turkic nationalists were encouraged to look to Baku for political and cultural inspiration. Left-wing Azerbaidzhani poets praised Baku with oriental hyperbole. One of them, Tavrieli, described Baku as the ‘Rose of beauty graved in stone’and another, Muhammed Biriya, poet and also secretary of the trade unions of Persian Azerbaidzhan, said he came to Baku to drink the ‘life-giving water’of this city and that he wept ‘happy tears’on seeing Baku.(50)

In 1946, when the Soviet troops left Northern Persia, the Persian Government only too easily swept away the regime set up by pro-com­munist Azerbaidzhani autonomists in Tabriz.  The nationalism of the Azerbaidzhani Turks of Persia was still too feeble to put up a successful resistance even to a weak Persian State.  The end of the Azerbaidzhani separatist government was, however, not the end of the Azerbaidzhan problem.  The Soviet regime did its best to keep the issue alive both in Soviet ‘Northern Azerbaidzhan’and in Persian ‘Southern Azerbaid­zhan’. Soviet Azerbaidzhani poets and writers continued to deal in their works with the problem of the unredeemed brothers in the South and thus to foster an irredentist ideology among the people of the Azer­baidzhani S.S.R. On the other hand communist refugees from Southern Azerbaidzhan were given shelter in Baku and were assisted in their efforts to keep in touch with the Turkic-speaking people of Northern Persia.

(Walter Kolarz., Russia and her Colonies. London: George Philip. I952.)

   Indeed Stalin in his interview in April of 1939 expressed the opinion as noted by Kolarz:

“Comrade Stalin in an interview with the writers of Azerbaijan (SSR) was talking about Nizami Ganjavi and brought some verses from him in order to reject the fact that this poet of our brothers (he means the Azerbaijan SSR) is part of Iranian/Persian literature, just due to the fact that he has written most of his work in Persian”(Kolarz, Aghajanian)

We note the amazing forgery here. Nizami Ganjavi does not have one verse of Turkish. There is not a single non-Persian verse from Nizami Ganjavi. Yet Stalin claims that Nizami Ganjavi was a victim of Persian oppression and only “most of his work” (in reality all of his work) is in Persian.  We note that the first verse in classical Azerbaijani Turkish was written much later than Nizami’s passing away. It is amazing that Nizami Ganjavi is not part of Persian literature according to the chief USSR ideologue, despite the fact that he wrote not “most”, but all of his work in the Persian language and is known throughout the world for his quintuple Persian masterpiece.

 

As Walter Kolarz has correctly noted:

The attempt to ‘annex’ an important part of Persian literature and to transform it into ‘Azerbaidzhani literature’can be best exemplified by the way in which the memory of the great Persian poet Nizami (1141-1203) is exploited in the Soviet Union.

We may quote the modern Turkic nationalist newspaper Ayna which regularly uses the term Persian Chauvinists(common amongst pan-turkist nationalists)  to describe Iranians.  The newspaper Ayna  states:

“Ayna, Baku
10 Aug 04Now, let us have a brief look at Khatami's mistake. While on a trip to
Ganca, he wrote down his words and wishes in the visitors' book at the
world's renowned thinker Nizami Gancavi's mausoleum. There he called
Nizami a poet of "Persian literature". We have always boasted our hospitality. This national value has always been a feature distinguishing Azerbaijani Turks from others. Our ills
have often resulted from this feature. With his remarks Khatami proved
that he was a representative of the chauvinist Persian ideology masked
under the cover of democracy.”

 

Yet no one dispute Nizami wrote in Persian and is part of Persian literature.  Even Nizami himself says he is composing Persian literature and nowhere does he use the term Turkish literature or any other ethno-linguistic term that would imply it is not Persian literature.  For example, when he was inspired and advised by the Prophet Khezr, Nizami who calls the Persian language as Dorr-i-Dari (a term that was used at least since the time of Nasir Khusraw) states in his Sharafnama:


چو در من گرفت آن نصیحت‏گری
زبان برگشادم به دّر دری

When all those advices were accepted by me

I started composing in the Persian Pearl (Dorr-i-Dari)

 

Or again for example in the Sharafnama he states:

نظامی که نظم دری کار اوست

دری نظم کردن سزاوار اوست

 

 

Nizami whose endeavor is producing Persian poetry (Nazm-e-Dari)

Versification of Persian(Dari Nazm Kardan) poetry is what suits him

 

Nizami never says I have composed in “Turkish” or “Azerbaijani literature”(a term that did not exist back then and Azerbaijan at that time would be part of the geographical region of Iran and its people would not be Turcophones at that time).  He clearly states Nazm-e-Dari (Persian poetry).  Parsi-i-Dari(term used by Ferdowsi) being the Khurasani Persian.  Nezami uses Parsi and Dari sometimes interchangeably but other times, like Qatran Tabrizi, local dialects were also called Parsi and this is distinguished within its own context.

 

Professor. Gilbert Lazard, a famous Iranologist and also the writer of Persian grammar states: "The language known as New Persian, which usually called at this period by the name of Dari or Parsi-Dari,can be classified linguistically as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of Sassanian Iran, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenids. Unlike the other languages and dialects, ancient and modern, of the Iranian group such as Avestan, Parthian, Soghdian, Kurdish, Pashto, etc., Old Middle and New Persian represent one and the same language at three states of its history. It had its origin in Fars (the true Persian country from the historical point of view and is differentiated by dialectical features, still easily recognizable from the dialect prevailing in north-western and eastern Iran".(Lazard, Gilbert 1975, “The Rise of the New Persian Language” in Frye, R. N., The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 4, pp. 595-632, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

 

 

Unfortunately, few people (some politically minded and some ignorant) who cannot read Persian have started to call Nizami Ganjavi’s poetry as something else rather than Persian literature.

 

Professor Yuri Slezkine has given a more general description of that era of USSR nation building as well a reference to Nizami Ganjavi:

….After the mid-1930s students, writers, and shock-workers could be formally ranked - and so could nationalities. Second, if the legitimacy of an ethnic community depended on the government’s grant of territory, then the withdrawal of that grant would automatically “denationalize” that community (though not necessarily its individual passport-carrying members!). This was crucial because by the second half of the decade the government had obviously decided that presiding over 192 languages and potentially 192 bureaucracies was not a very good idea after all. The production of textbooks, teachers and indeed students could not keep up with formal “nationalization,”the fully bureaucratized command economy and the newly centralized education system required manageable and streamlined communication channels, and the self-consciously Russian “promotees”who filled the top jobs in Moscow after the Great Terror were probably sympathetic to complaints of anti-Russian discrimination (they themselves were beneficiaries of dass-based quotas). By the end of the decade most ethnically defined Soviets, villages, districts and other small units had been disbanded, some autonomous republics forgotten and most “national minority’’schools and institutions closed down.

However - and this is the most important “however”of this essay -the ethnic groups that already had their own republics and their own extensive bureaucracies were actually told to redouble their efforts at building distinct national cultures. Just as the “reconstruction of Moscow”was changing from grandiose visions of refashioning the whole cityscape to a focused attempt to create several perfect artifacts, so the nationality policy had abandoned the pursuit of countless rootless nationalities in order to concentrate on a few full-fledged, fully equipped “nations.”  While the curtailment of ethnic quotas and the new emphasis on Soviet meritocracy (“quality of cadres”) slowed down and sometimes reversed the indigenization process in party and managerial bureaucracies, the celebration of national cultures and the production of native intelligentsias intensified dramatically.  Uzbek communities outside Uzbekistan were left to their own devices but Uzbekistan as a quasi-nation-state remained in place, got rid of most alien enclaves on its territory and concentrated on its history and literature. The Soviet apartment as a whole was to have fewer rooms but the ones that remained were to be lavishly decorated with hometown memorabilia, grandfather clocks and lovingly preserved family portraits.

Indeed, the 1934 Congress of Soviet Writers, which in many ways inaugurated high Stalinism as a cultural paradigm, was a curiously solemn parade of old-fashioned romantic nationalisms. Pushkin, Tolstoy and other officially restored Russian icons were not the only national giants of international stature - all Soviet peoples possessed, or would shortly acquire, their own classics, their own founding fathers and their own folkloric riches.  The Ukrainian delegate said that Taras Shevchenko was a “genius”and a “colossus” “whose role in the creation of the Ukrainian literary language was no less important than Pushkin’s role in the creation of the Russian literary language, and perhaps even greater.”  The Armenian delegate pointed out that his nation’s culture was “one of the most ancient cultures of the orient,” that the Armenian national alphabet predated Christianity and that the Armenian national epic was “one of the best examples of world epic literature” because of  “the lifelike realism of its imagery, its elegance, the profundity and simplicity of its popular wisdom and the democratic nature of its plot.”  The Azerbaijani delegate insisted that the Persian poet Nizami was actually a classic of Azerbaijani literature because he was a “Turk from Giandzha” and that Mirza Fath Ali Akhundov was not a gentry writer, as some proletarian critics had charged, but a “great philosopher-playwright” whose “characters [were] as colorful, diverse and realistic as the characters of Griboedov, Gogol’and Ostrovskii.”  The Turkmen delegate told the Congress about the eighteenth-century “ coryphaeus of Turkmen poetry,”Makhtum-Kuli; the Tajik delegate explained that Tajik literature had descended from Rudaki, Firdousi, Omar Khayyam and “other brilliant craftsmen of the world”; while the Georgian delegate delivered an extraordinarily lengthy address in which he claimed that Shot’ha Rust’haveli’s The Man in the Panther’s Skin was “centuries ahead of west European intellectual movements,”infinitely superior to Dante and generally “the greatest literary monument of the whole ... so-called medieval Christian world.”

According to the new party line, all officially recognized Soviet nationalities were supposed to have their own nationally defined “Great Traditions”that needed to be protected, perfected and, if need be, invented by specially trained professionals in specially designated institutions.  A culture’s “greatness” depended on its administrative status (from the Union republics at the top to the non-territorial nationalities who had but a tenuous hold on “culture”),  but within a given category all national traditions except for the Russian were supposed to be of equal value. Rhetorically this was not always the case (Ukraine was sometimes mentioned as second-in-command while central Asia was often described as backward), but institutionally all national territories were supposed to be perfectly symmetrical - from the party apparatus to the school system. This was an old Soviet policy but the contribution of the 1930s consisted in the vigorous leveling of remaining uneven surfaces and the equally vigorous manufacturing of special - and also identical - culture-producing institutions. By the end of the decade all Union republics had their own writers’ unions, theaters, opera companies and national academies that specialized primarily in national history, literature and language. Republican plans approved by Moscow called for the production of ever larger numbers of textbooks, plays, novels, ballets and short stories, all of them national in form (which, in the case of dictionaries, folklore editions and the “classics”, series came dangerously close to being in content as well).

….

Even in 1936-1939, when hundreds of alleged nationalists were being sentenced to death “the whole Soviet country”was noisily celebrating the 1000th anniversary of Firdousi, claimed by the Tajiks as one of the founders of their (and not Persian) literature…

(Slezkine, Yuri. “The Soviet Union as a Communal Apartment.”in Stalinism: New Directions. Ed. Sheila Fitzpatrick, Routledge, New York, 2000. pages 330-335)

 

Professor Bert G. Fragner has also examined the arbitrary decisions of central powers in the USSR to determine and make history for the purpose of nation building:

 

Peculiarities of Soviet Nationalism

If these were the basic requirements, we should now look for the consequences. According to the Soviet concept, nations had to have their own specific territories. Territorialism was obligatory according to Stalin’s basic theses on the National Question. The Soviet principle of territoriality clearly and outspokenly contradicts the theories of Renner and Bauer, who rejected territorial requirements for national minorities etc. Within the Soviet system, any decisions on the limita­tion of territory were the exclusive prerogative of the central power in Moscow. Economic considerations and planning were also largely concentrated in central hands. The Soviet power created territories for created nations like planned habitats or biotopes, according to their Utopian vision of human and social engineering.

 

This means that in Soviet nationalism there was no place for direct political leadership towards national independence, and no place for a nation’s independent economic growth.  But there was an important task for potential national leaders: to support distinct collective identi­fication with the specific nation, that is, its territory, its (regulated, or at least standardized) language, and its internal administration.  This set of tasks was to be crowned by the development of a specific and distinct culture within the Soviet frame, not to be confused with others. Therefore, Soviet nationalism was less harmonizing than was widely believed; it accepted inner-Soviet nationalist contradictions and dissent on territories, divergent interpretations of the cultural heritage (such as: Was al-Farabi a Kazakh? Was Ibn Sina (Avicenna) a Tajik or an Uzbek? To whom does al-Biruni belong?)  It was up to the central power to solve these kinds of contradiction by arbitrary decisions. This makes clear that Soviet nationalism was embedded into the political structure of what used to be called ‘Democratic Centralism’. The territorial principle was extended to all aspects of national histories, not only in space but also in time: ‘Urartu was the oldest manifestation of a state not only on Armenian soil but throughout the whole Union (and, therefore, implicitly the earliest forerunner of the Soviet state)’, ‘Nezami from Ganja is an Azerbaijani Poet’, and so on.  The Georgian linguist Nikolai Marr’s bizarre, not to say extre­mist, theoretical rejection of any migrations in world history was, after some years of disastrous consequences, officially rejected itself, during Stalin’s lifetime. In practice, this concept never vanished from the national discourses in the Soviet Union, albeit on a scholarly or on a popular and even folkloristic level.

(Fragner. B.G., ‘Soviet Nationalism’: An Ideological Legacy to the Independent Republics of Central Asia’in: Willem van Schendel/Erik J. Zürcher (eds.), Identity Politics in Central Asia and the Muslim World. Nationalism, Ethnicity and Labour in the Twentieth Century, London 2001)

 

We note that Uzbekistan still claims that Biruni is an Uzbek despite the fact that Biruni has a direct statement saying the people of Chorasmia are a branch of Persian and it is known that his language was the Chorasmian Iranian language (which he has left important remnants of).  He has specifically mentioned that his native language was the Iranian Chorasmian language.

 

J.G. Tiwari has also summarized and examined the USSR nation building policies with regards to Azerbaijan SSR.

 

(Excerpted from Muslims Under the Czars and the Soviets by J.G. Tiwari, 1984, AIRP).

Taken from: http://admin.muslimsonline.com/babri/azerbaijan1.htm (access date June 2006)

 

“Right on heels of October Revolution, the Bolsheviks in the Russian dominated town of Baku seized political power although they were in a minority [100] in the local Soviet. But the nationalists led by their Mussavat Party overthrew that government and set up their own independent government in its place in November, 1918 [101]. The Eleventh Russian Soviet Army was sent to Baku to curb the nationalists and seize power from them. On April 27, 1920 the nationalist government was overthrown and Soviet authority was established [102] and the army captured millions of puds of oil, according to April 28, 1920 telegram sent to Moscow by Revolutionary War Council of the Eleventh Russian Soviet Army concerning the liberation of Baku [103].

 

Immediately after this economic exploitation of Azerbajian began. Oil drilling rapidly increased. Influx of Russian settlers to Baku was accelerated. By 1934, only one out of five oil workers was the Azerbaijani Turk. In 1949 Russian was the language employed in most of the schools [104]. The economy of Azerbaijan being mostly agricultural, emphasis was given on increasing the area under cotton cultivation. Between 1913 and 1938 the area under cotton increased by 90 per cent while that under wheat shrunk by 12 per cent and that under rice cultivation by 48 percent. There was popular opposition to cotton growing. Even the Communist Party organization in villages and rural districts sabotaged the instructions which Baku authorities issued for the implementation of the cotton plan [105]. Coercion was employed to extend cotton area, to set up collective farms and to implement alphabet revolution.

Within the Communist Party, opposition arose against Russification and economic exploitation of Azerbaijan. Between 1921 and 1925, this opposition was led by Sultangaliyevists who were working within the party under the leadership of Narimanov. The deviationists were liquidated. This was followed by another similar revolt in the party led by Khanbudagovism demanding the end of Russian colonization and the replacement of Turkic workers by Non-Turkic workers. Beria, the NKVD Chief was specially sent there in the thirties who took a “merciless part in unmasking and extermination of the Trotskyite-Bukharinist and bourgeois-nationalist deviationists in the country [106].

Azerbaijan history was re-written to establish the existence of strong friendly relations between Russia and Azerbaijan in the past and to deny close cultural ties with Persia of which for hundreds of years Azerbaijan was an integral part. Vigorous attempts were made to snap Azerbaijan’s cultural ties with Iran.

A striking example of Soviet attempts to snap the cultural ties between Azerbaijan and Persia was their treatment of Nizami, one of the most outstanding Persian poets. Since Nizami was born in a place that now falls within Soviet Azerbaijan, their propagandists claimed that Nizami belonged to Soviet Azerbaijan. The Soviet regime went to the extent of proclaiming that Nizami’s works were in accordance with Soviet ideology. Their leading journal Bolshevik stressed that Nizami’s ‘great merit’consisted in having undermined Islam [107]. Stalin referred to Nizami ‘as the great poet of our brotherly Azerbaijan people’who must not be surrendered to Iranian literature, despite having written most of his poems in Persian. Stalin even quoted passages from Nizami showing that he was forced to write in Persian language because he was not allowed to talk to his people in their native language [108]. He emphasized the view that Nizami was a victim of Persian oppression of Azerbaijanis and he opposed Persian oppression of minorities.

New generation of Azerbaijan poets has cropped whose main theme is that Azerbaijanis in Persia live under oppression while the people of Soviet Azerbaijan live a prosperous life. One Azerbaijani poet in one of his works puts the following words in the mouth of Stalin:

From here the light will burst in living torrents, On Araby, Afghanistan and Iran; and dawn will bathe the Orient tomorrow, From this thy land, the happiest of lands [109].

The objective of Soviet literature and propaganda in Azerbaijan is to alienate the Azerbaijanis from Tehran, from Iran’s religion and culture and to encourage people to look to Baku and not Tehran for cultural and political inspiration.

Since the very inception of Bolshevik regime Baku and Azerbaijan have been used as instruments for Soviet expansionist aims. Baku is the venue of the Soviet University of the Peoples of the East where cadres are trained for work beyond the southern borders of Soviet Union. In 1921 and 1941, twice Soviet army in Azerbaijan aggressed on Iran and made abortive attempts to set up puppet Soviet regimes there. As early as 1930, the organ of the Soviet Nationalities, Revolyutsiyai Natsionalnost i, complained that Azerbaijan Turks consider themselves as integral part of Pahelvi’s monarchy and forecasted that in due course of time Baku would play an important role in bringing about a new consciousness among Turks of Persian Azerbaijan, [110] in other words implying that Baku would be used as a propaganda centre for instigating Communist revolts in Iran. These endeavours have been reinforced by the recurrent theme of Soviet propagandists and litterateurs that their brothers in Persian Azerbaijan should be redeemed. In this way an irredentist ideology has been kept alive in Soviet Azerbaijan. Soviet Azerbaijan is the sanctuary of Iranian Communists and a centre for funding the Iranian Communist Party. On its Iranian border is positioned a radio station, called the National Voice of Iran which beams communist propaganda to Iran. As many as 28 Soviet divisions are stationed for action in Iran [111] and this border is connected by road net-works with the metropolitan cities of Soviet Union. In other words Soviet Azerbaijan is being keyed to play a vital role in the realization of Soviet plan to reach Gulf waters. Communist Party of Azerbaijan remained an important source of help for Afghan communists before they took over.

Because of the iron curtain the outside world knows very little of the current popular reaction to Soviet regime in Azerbaijan, but the following two reports in ABN Correspondence can serve as an indication:

“The Daily Telegraph dated May 22 1973 reported that the nationalist upsurge has taken place in Ukraine. Recently two writers have been sentenced to 7 and 5 years forced labour, respectively, for participating in activities of a ‘national cultural movement’. There has been considerable national and religious uprising in Latvia and Lithunia. Similar activities are evident in Tadzhikstan, Azerbaijan and Turkestan. [112]

“The underground radio stations’are known to exist in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Lithunia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.”[113]

References:
1. Kolarz Walter, Russia and Her Colonies, p. 32.
2. Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1976, Vol. 9, p. 493 and Vol. 7, p. 71.

An example of nation building process is also given by Ismet Cherif Vanly in his article describes the official state policy (which was really part of the USSR policy of assimilating smaller groups into larger groups):

 

“Not only did Turkey and Azerbaijan pursue an identical policy, both employed identical techniques, e.g. forced assimilation, manipulation of population figures, settlement of non-Kurds in areas predominantly Kurdish, suppression of publications and abolition of Kurdish as a medium of instruction in schools. A familiar Soviet technique was also used: Kurdish historical figures such as Sharaf Khan of Bitlis and Ahmad Khani and the Shaddadid dynasty as a whole were described as Azeris. Kurds who retained “Kurdish”as their nationality on their internal passports as opposed to “Azeri”were unable to find employment.

(Ismet Chériff Vanly, “The Kurds in the Soviet Union”, in: Philip G. Kreyenbroek & S. Sperl (eds.), The Kurds: A Contemporary Overview (London: Routledge, 1992))

 

It should be pointed out that during the decay and finally the demise of the USSR, some notable Russian scholars have spoken about the political attempt of detaching Nizami Ganjavi from Persian literature and the wider Iranian culture and civilization.

The late Professor Igor M. Diakonoff gives a background on his writing of the book History of Media and he clearly states as he always had maintained that the Medes were Iranians. He also gives his impression on the 800th anniversary celebration of Nizami Ganjavi. He gives an overview of the USSR nation building.

http://www.srcc.msu.su/uni-persona/site/ind_cont.htm

http://www.srcc.msu.su/uni-persona/site/authors/djakonov/posl_gl.htm

 

Accessed August 2006.

I.M. Dyakonoff (1915- 1999)

Publisher: (European House), Sankt Petersburg, Russia, 1995

ISBN 5-85733-042-4

 

The book can also be found at the Russian National Library

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_National_Library

http://www.nlr.ru/cgi-bin/opac/nog/opac.exe

 

Дьяконов, Игорь Михайлович(1915-).
 Книга воспоминаний. - СПб.: Фонд регион.
развития Санкт-Петербурга и др., 1995.
- 765, [2] с.: портр.+ 25 см. - (Дневники
и воспоминания петербургских ученых).
 Изд. совместно с ООО “Европ. дом”, Европ.
ун-том в Санкт-Петербурге. - ISBN
5-85733-042-4 (ООО “Европ. дом”).

 I. Дневники и воспоминания петербургских
ученых (Загл. сер.)

 ................................
 Местонахождение(шифр):
NLR 96-7/890



Дьяконов, Игорь Михайлович(1915-).
 Книга воспоминаний. - СПб.: Фонд регион.
развития С.-Петербурга и др., 1995. - 767
с.: портр., факс.+ 25 см. - (Серия
“Дневники и воспоминания петербургских
ученых”/ Ред. совет: Б.В. Ананьич и др.).
 На обороте тит. л. авт.: востоковед И.М.
Дьяконов. - ISBN 5-85733-042-4.

 I. Серия “Дневники и воспоминания
петербургских ученых”(Загл. сер.)

 ................................
 Местонахождение(шифр):
NLR 96-7/531

The Book of Memoirs 

Last Chapter (After the war)
pp 730 - 731 

Our faculty at the University, as I already mentioned, was closed “for Zionism”. There was only one position left open (“History of the Ancient East”) which and I have conceded to Lipin, not knowing for sure then, that he was an (secret service) informer, and was responsible for death of lovely and kind Nika Erschovich. But Hermitage salary alone was not enough for living, even combined with what Nina earned, and I, following to an advice from a pupil of my brother Misha, Lesha Brstanicky, [signed a contract and] agreed to write “History of the Media”for Azerbaijan. All they searched for more aristocratic and more ancient ancestors, and Azerbaijanis hoped, that Medes were their ancient ancestors.

The staff of Institute of History of Azerbaijan resembled me a good panopticon. All members had appropriate social origin and were party members (or so it was considered); few could hardly talk Persian, but basically all were occupied by mutual eating (office politics). Characteristic feature: once, when we had a party (a banquet) in my honor at the Institute director’apartment (who, if I am not wrong, was commissioned from a railway related-job), I was amazed by fact that in this society consisted solely of Communist party members, there were no women. Even the mistress of the house appeared only once about four o’clock in the morning and has drunk a toast for our health with a liqueur glass, standing at the doors.
 
The majority of employees of the Institute had very distant relation to science. Among other guests were my friend Lenja Bretanitsky (which, however, worked at other institute), certain complacent and wise old man, who according to rumors, was a red agent during Musavatists time, one bearer of hero of Soviet Union medal, Arabist, who later become famous after publication of one scientific historical medieval, either Arabic, or Persian manuscript, from which all quotes about Armenians were removed completely; besides that there were couple of mediocre archeologists; the rest were [Communist] party activists, who were commissioned to scientific front. 

Shortly before that celebrations of a series of anniversaries of great poets of the USSR people started. Before the war a celebration of Armenian epos hero of David of Sassoon anniversary took place (epos’date was unknown, though). I caught only the end of the celebrations in 1939 while participating in the expedition, excavating Karmir Blur [in Armenia]. And it was planned an anniversary of the great poet Nizami celebration in Azerbaijan. There were slight problems with Nizami - first of all he was not Azeri but Persian (Iranian) poet, and though he lived in presently Azerbaijani city of Ganja, which, like many cities in the region, had Iranian population in Middle Ages. Second, according to the ritual, it was required to place a portrait of the poet on a prominent place, and whole building in one of the central areas of Baku was allocated for a museum of the paintings illustrating Nizami poems.

Problem was that the Koran strictly forbids any images of alive essences, and nor a Nizami portrait, neither paintings illustrating his poems existed from Nizami’s time.

So Nizami portrait and paintings illustrating his poems were ordered three months before celebrations start. The portrait has been delivered to the house of Azerbaijan Communist Party first secretary Bagirov, local Stalin. He called a Middle Ages specialist from the Institute of History, drew down a cover from the portrait and asked:
- Is it close to original?
- Who is the original? - the expert has shy mumbled. Bagirov has reddened from anger.
- Nizami!
- You see, - the expert told, - they have not created portraits in Middle Ages in the East...

All the same, the portrait occupied a central place in gallery. It was very difficult to imagine more ugly collection of ugly, botched work, than that which was collected on a museum floor for the anniversary.

I could not prove to Azeris, that Medes were their ancestors, because, after all, it was not so. But I wrote “History of the Media”, big, detailed work. Meanwhile, according to the USSR law a person could not have more than one job, so I was forced to leave (without a regret) Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences, and, alas, the Hermitage, with its scanty earnings. For some period I worked at Leningrad’s Office of History museum…

(It should be noted that Diakonoff here considers Azeris as equivalent to a Turkic group, where-as in this author’s opinion, Azeri’s have a considerable Iranic heritage and thus the Medes and their civilization are part of the broader Iranic heritage of Azeris as well. This is what Prof. Planhol has called a multi-secular symbiosis. It is noteworthy that the whole concept of USSR nation building is succinctly described by one of its greatest historians (Diakonov).

http://www.srcc.msu.su/uni-persona/site/authors/djakonov/posl_gl.htm

Original Russian of Professor Diakonov (this author does not speak Russian and thanks the anonymous friend who helped him by translating it and the translation was checked via computerized translator):

В Университете нашу кафедру, как я уже говорил, закрыли «за сионизм». По специальности «история Древнего Востока”оставили одну ставку – и я уступил ее Липину, не зная еще тогда достоверно, что он стукач, и на его совести жизнь милого и доброго Ники Ерсховича. Но на одну эрмитажную зарплату было не прожить с семьей, даже с тем, что зарабатывала Нина, и я, по совету ученика моего брата Миши, Лени Брстаницкого, подрядился написать для Азербайджана «Историю Мидии». Все тогда искали предков познатнее и подревнее, и азербайджанцы надеялись, что мидяне – их древние предки. Коллектив Института истории Азербайджана представлял собой хороший паноптикум. С социальным происхождением и партийностью у всех было все в порядке (или так считалось); кое-кто мог объясниться по-персидски, но в основном они были заняты взаимным поеданием. Характерная черта: однажды, когда в мою честь был устроен банкет на квартире директора института (кажется, переброшенного с партийной работы на железной дороге), я был поражен тем, что в этом обществе, состоявшем из одних членов партии коммунистов, не было ни одной женщины. Даже хозяйка дома вышла к нам только около четвертого часа утра и выпила за наше здоровье рюмочку, стоя в дверях комнаты. К науке большинство сотрудников института имело довольно косвенное отношение. Среди прочих гостей выделялись мой друг Леня Бретаницкий (который, впрочем, работал в другом институте), один некий благодушный и мудрый старец, который, по слухам, был красным шпионом, когда власть в Азербайджане была у мусаватистов, один герой Советского Союза, арабист, прославившийся впоследствии строго научным изданием одного исторического средневекового, не то арабо-, не то ирано-язычного исторического источника, из которого, однако, были тщательно устранены все упоминания об армянах; кроме того, были один или два весьма второстепенных археолога; остальные вес были партработники, брошенные на науку. Изысканные восточные тосты продолжались до утра. Незадолго перед тем началась серия юбилеев великих поэтов народов СССР. Перед войной отгремел юбилей армянского эпоса Давида Сасунского (дата которого вообще-то неизвестна) – хвостик этого я захватил в 1939 г. во время экспедиции на раскопки Кармир-блура. А сейчас в Азербайджане готовился юбилей великого поэта Низами. С Низами была некоторая небольшая неловкость: во-первых, он был не азербайджанский, а персидский (иранский) поэт, хотя жил он в ныне азербайджанском городе Гяндже, которая, как и большинство здешних городов, имела в Средние века иранское

 

население. Кроме того, по ритуалу полагалось выставить на видном месте портрет поэта, и в одном из центральных районов Баку было выделено целое здание под музей картин, иллюстрирующих поэмы Низами. Особая трудность заключалась в том, что Коран строжайше запрещает всякие изображения живых существ, и ни портрета, ни иллюстрацион картин во времена Низами в природе не существовало. Портрет Низами и картины, иллюстрирующие его поэмы (численностью на целую большущую галерею) должны были изготовить к юбилею за три месяца.

Портрет был доставлен на дом первому секретарю ЦК КП Азербайджана Багирову, локальному Сталину. Тот вызвал к себе ведущего медиевиста из Института истории, отдернул полотно с портрета и спросил:

– Похож?

– На кого?... – робко промямлил эксперт. Багиров покраснел от гнева.

– На Низами!

– Видите ли, – сказал эксперт, – в Средние века на Востоке портретов не создавали...

Короче говоря, портрет занял ведущее место в галерее. Большего собрания безобразной мазни, чем было собрано на музейном этаже к юбилею, едва ли можно себе вообразить.

Доказать азербайджанцам, что мидяне – их предки, я не смог, потому что это все-таки не так. Но «Историю Мидии”написал – большой, толстый, подробно аргументированный том. Между тем, в стране вышел закон, запрещающий совместительство, и мне пришлось (без сожаления) бросить и Азербайджанскую Академию наук, и, увы, Эрмитаж с его мизерным заработком. Некоторое время работал с Ленинградском отделении Института истории, созданном на руинах разгромленного уникального музея истории письменности Н.П.Лихачсва, а одно время числился почему-то по московскому отделению этого же Института истории.”

Another Russian scholar that can be mentioned Victor A. Shnirelman, who received his Ph.D. in History and is a leading scientist of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  He has published studies and articles on interethnic relations and conflicts, and focused on Russian nationalist ideologies and anti-Semitism from the historical and current perspectives. He teaches the sociology of interethnic relations and nationalism, as well as an introduction to the History of anti-Semitism at the Jewish University of Moscow.

Shnirelman writes in his important book in 2003:

 

К этому времени отмеченные иранский и армянский факторы способствовали быстрой азербайджанизации исторических героев и исторических политических образований на территории Азербайджана. В частности, в 1938 г. Низами в связи с его 800-летним юбилеем был объявлен гениальным азербайджанским поэтом (История, 1939. С. 88-91). На самом деле он был персидским поэтом, что и неудивительно, так как городское население в те годы было представлено персами (Дьяконов, 1995. С. 731). В свое время это признавалось всеми энциклопедическими словарями, выходившими в России, и лишь Большая Советская Энциклопедия впервые в 1939 г. объявила Низами "великим азербайджанским поэтом" (Ср. Брокгауз и Ефрон, 1897. С. 58; Гранат, 1917. С. 195; БСЭ, 1939. С. 94).

 

Translation from Russian:

By that time, already mentioned Iranian and Armenian factors contributed to the rapid azerbaijanization of historical heroes and historical political entities on the territory of Azerbaijan. In particular, in 1938, Nizami in connection with his 800-year anniversary was declared a genius(marvelous) Azerbaijani poet (History, 1939. Pp 88-91). In fact, he was a Persian poet, which is not surprising, because the urban population in those years was Persian (Dyakonov, 1995. page. 731). At one time it was recognized by all Encyclopedic Dictionaries of published in Russia, and only the Big Soviet Encyclopedia for the first time in 1939, announced Nizami as a "Great Azerbaijani poet (Sr. Brockhaus and Efron, 1897. page. 58; Garnet, 1917. page. 195 ; BSE, 1939. p. 94).

Source:

 (Russian) Shnirelman, Viktor A. Memory Wars: Myths, Identity and Politics in Transcaucasia. Moscow: Academkniga, 2003 ISBN 5-9462-8118-6.

 

Note the above book is critical of ethnic driven historiography in the Transcaucasia (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia) in general.

 

The Russian philologist Ivan Mikhailovich Steblin-Kamensky, Professor and the Dean of the Oriental Department of Saint Petersburg University comments

(“Oriental Department is ready to cooperate with the West”, Saint Petersburg University newspaper,  № 24—25 (3648—49), 1 November 2003”).  http://www.spbumag.nw.ru/2003/24/1.shtml):

Мы готовили таких специалистов, но, как показывает наше с ними общение, там очень много националистических тенденций, научных фальсификаций. Видимо, это связано с первыми годами самостоятельности. В их трудах присутствует националистическое начало, нет объективного взгляда, научного понимания проблем, хода исторического развития. Подчас – откровенная фальсификация. Например, Низами, памятник которому воздвигнут на Каменноостровском проспекте, объявляется великим азербайджанским поэтом. Хотя он по-азербайджански даже не говорил. А обосновывают это тем, что он жил на территории нынешнего Азербайджана – но ведь Низами писал свои стихи и поэмы на персидском языке!

Translation:

" We trained such specialists, but, as shown by our communication with them, there are a lot of nationalistic tendencies there and academic fraud. Apparently it's related to the first years of independence. Their works include nationalist beginnings. Objective perspective,
scientific understanding of the problems and timeline of historical developments are lacking. Sometimes  there is an outright falsification. For example, Nizami, the monument of whom was erected at  Kamennoostrovsk boulevard, is proclaimed Great Azerbaijani poet. Although he did not even speak Azeri. They justify this by saying that
he lived in the territory of current Azerbaijan, but Nizami wrote his
poems in Persian language!”

 

 

Overall, it seems the political detachment of Nezami Ganjavi from Iranian civilization is recognized by authors who write about the former USSR:  Yo'av Karny, “Highlanders : A Journey to the Caucasus in Quest of Memory”, Published by Macmillan, 2000.  Pg 124: “In 1991 he published a translation into Khynalug of the famous medieval poet Nezami, who is known as Persian but is claimed by Azeri nationalists as their own.

 

Another Russian scholar, by the name of Mikhail Kapustin in 1988 (during the time when the USSR was opening up to the world and there was no pressure on scholars to manipulate fact) wrote in the cultural magazine of Soviets:

Nizami Ganjavi is one of the greatest thinkers and poets of the middle ages and belongs to the exceptional heritage of Persian literature of Iran. He had no connection with the current culture of Azarbaijan. And Azerbaijanis are making a useless effort to claim him as one of their own. At the time of Nizami, Azeri-Turks did not exist in that land.

(Sovietkaya Kultura (Soviet Culture) magazine, 27 of December, 1988).

 

This author does not agree with Mikhail Kapustin in terms of not having any connection with the culture of Azerbaijan. Nizami Ganjavi has influenced the whole realm of Islamic literature and he is also part of the Iranian heritage of the Republic of Azerbaijan. At the same time, the folklore of Nizami Ganjavi is based on Persian (Sassanid, Shahnameh) and Iranian folklore (with the exception of the case of Layli o Majnoon which was a Persianized version of an original Arab story) and not Turkmen/Oguz folklore like those of Dede Qorqud or Grey-Wolves. Nizami Ganjavi’s epics are not based on Turkic themes. It is also important to emphasize that the two major influences on Nizami were Sanai and Ferdowsi. So Nizami Ganjavi is part of the Iranian heritage of Iranian people and people that also have Iranian heritage including Azerbaijanis. The view of Diakonof and Kapustin put Nizami Ganjavi in Iranian civilization. 

 

For example, a relatively nationalistic website mentions:

 

“The original opera had been based on “Kaveh, the Blacksmith”. However, such a plot would absolutely have jeopardized their lives. First of all, it was based on a foreign tale: Kaveh was a mythical figure of ancient Persia, memorialized by 10th century Ferdowsi in Persian verse in the “Shahnameh”(Book of the Kings)”

 

http://www.azer.com/aiweb/categories/magazine/ai142_folder/142_articles/142_koroghlu_why.html

(Betty Blair, Why Hajibeyov wrote the Opera Koroghlu, Azerbaijan International, Summer 2006)

 

On the other hand, Nizami Ganjavi has mentioned dozens of Shahnameh figures in his Panj-Ganj or Khamseh (these is a small section on this in this article). He has written that he considers himself a successor and inheritor of Ferdowsi. He has never mentioned once a symbol from Turkish mythology like those of Grey Wolf, Dede Qorqud, Oghuz-nama and other myths/folklore of Turkic groups. Ferdowsi is widely praised and used by Nizami Ganjavi, yet a nationalist journal claims Ferdowsi’s work is a foreign tale. So a minority of the modern intellectuals (from both Iranian Azerbaijan and the Republic of Azerbaijan) identify themselves solely with Oghuz Turks and even if there are strong Iranic elements in the history of Azerbaijan and the Caucasia (like Masud ibn Namdar, Nasir ad-din Tusi, Bahmanyar, Nizami Ganjavi, Zoroaster, Medes, Parthians, Achaemenids), some of these intellectuals will either dismiss them or attempt to Turkify them if possible. 

 

Two important and recent articles on Politicization of Nezami by Alexandar Otarovich Tamazshvilli

 

Alexander Otarovich Tamazshvilli worked as one of the scholar in the Russian institute of Oriental studies in St. Petersburg until his retirement.  He has written two important articles on the politicization of Nezami and USSR views on the Persian culture heritage.  This author through a friend that spoke Russian as good as a native speaker had a chance to ask him several questions through the phone.  We obtained his phone number through the Russian institute of Oriental Studies and unfortunately he did not use email. 

 

Question:  Your two articles on politicization of Nezami are very important.  Can they be translated?

 

Answer:  Yes of course.

 

Question:  Do you have an e-mail?

 

Answer:  No I do not use e-mail but I can give you my address for further  questions.

 

Question:  Do you think Nezami was Iranian or Azerbaijani Turkic?  Because in your article you mention that the overwhelming orientalist scholars consider him Persian, yet you mention that the USSR results could have been reached later, but they came during his 800th anniversary?

 

Answer:  I am not a scholar Nezami or ancient history of the East.  Rather I study the politicization and USSR politics.  So I have no position on the ethnicity or cultural attribution of Nezami.

 

Question:  Do you think that the republic of Azerbaijan will reconsider its position on Nezami?

 

Answer: No.  Nezami is a very important figure for Azerbaijani nation building.  Thus the view that he is an Azerbaijani will remain there for the foreseeable future.

 

Anyhow, despite Dr. Tamazshvilli not taking a position himself (which is reasonable since he did not consider himself an expert), he has two articles which reveal how Nezami was politicized and used for nation building.  We should recall though that in the USSR era especially 1940-1970’s, the term “Azerbaijani” was not equivalent to Turkic rather it meant primarily a synthesis of Iranian (Medes) and Caucasian Albanians.  Indeed the USSR Great Soviet Encyclopedia mentions the Avesta as the oldest form of Azerbaijani literature, where the Avesta is in an Iranian language and the correct term would be Iranian literature.    

 

Dr. Tamazshvilli wrote two important articles and here we provide translations of both articles where it concerns politicization of Nezami.  Dr. Tamazshivilli himself though took no position on the actual background of Nezami in our interview and said he is not an expert in ancient history or Persian literature. 

 

Article 1:

Tamazshvilli A.O. “From the History of Study of Nezami-ye Ganjavi in the USSR:

Around the Anniversary – E.E. Bertels, J.V. Stalin, and others” in “Unknown pages of domestic oriental studies"( Editors: Naumlin VV, Romanova NG, Smilyanskaya IM), The Russian Academy of Sciences. Oriental studies institute. 2004.

 

Article 2:

Tamazshvilli, A.O. Posleslovie (Afterword).  Iranistika v Rossii i iranisty (Iranology in Russia and Iranologists).  Moscow, 2001  Russian Citation: Тамазишвили А. О. Послесловие [к публикации доклада Б. Н. Заходера «Е. Э. Бертельс»]. — Иранистика в России и иранисты. М., 2001.

 

 

However the articles of Tamazshvilli speak for themselves.  They clearly show that the USSR scholarship was concerned about nation building.  Indeed scholars such as E.E. Bertels were affected by political decisions. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article 1 of Tamazashvilli: From the History of Study of Nezami-ye Ganjavi in the USSR: Around the Anniversary – E.E. Bertels, J.V. Stalin, and others”

 

 

One of the most glaring and remarkable cultural and socio-political events of the USSR in the autumn of 1940 was supposed to have been the 800th anniversary of the poet and thinker, Nezami-ye Ganjavi.  The war pushed the festivities six years back until the autumn of 1947.

This long (from 1937 to 1947) anniversary campaign, in which many scholars – Orientalists, literary people, and politicians – took part, gave good results.  In the boundary of 1930s and 1940s, its active participant, E.E. Bertels said, “real scholarly study of Nezami can only be done in our time.”[1]  He himself concluded that “Only twenty years ago all the literature on Nezami in Russian language was based on few articles mostly of bibliographic character.  The 800th anniversary of the Great Azerbaijani thinker and poet in all the corners of our Homeland has basically changed this situation.”[2]  Main, revolutionary result of this campaign for our native scholarship became attributing Nezami as an Azerbaijani poet, and his works as achievements of the Azerbaijani literature, while in the realm of the world Oriental Studies (and prior to this in the Soviet as well), the viewpoint of him as a representative of Persian literature. 

……

Political content of the Soviet Nezami-studies was left out of the view of the historians of the native scholarship, including the biographers of E.E. Bertels.  Moreover, the question of nationality of Nezami and his works, other than scholarly aspects, had clear political aspects; and a scholarly based answer to this question is an important political meaning which was based on the creation of the Azerbaijani SSR.[3]  Therefore, from beginning to the end of Nezami’s 800th anniversary campaign, scholarship and politics went hand-in-hand, supporting and directing each other; but it seems that politics still had a more important role.  This was stipulated by a number of objective and subjective reasons.

Nezami deserved an anniversary in any case, which seemed to have an evident benefit to scholarship.  There was a precedent as well – in 1934, the 1000th birth anniversary of the classic of Persian literature, Ferdowsi, was held in the USSR.  However, having the anniversary of Nezami, while presenting him with the same qualities, would not have been objectively expedient.

The second half of the 1930s became a period of national literary anniversaries.: In 1937, 750th anniversary of Shota Rustaveli’s poem, “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin”; in 1938, 750th anniversary of “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign”; in 1939, 1000th anniversary of the Armenian epic, “David of Sasun.”  These anniversaries were held in the Azerbaijani SSR as well.  If Azerbaijan would not propose a similar anniversary, both from chronological as well as cultural perspective, it could have been an argument for beliefs (and not only from a narrow-minded level) about historically formed backwardness of the Azerbaijanis and their national culture in comparison to the Persians, Georgians, and Armenians.  This is supported by a reference to Nezami and his works during the anniversary campaign and the controversy on the development level of Azerbaijan in the 12th century; but later on this.

“Celebrating the 800th anniversary of the birth of Nezami is a huge achievement of our people in the area of cultural buildup,” was said in Azerbaijan.[4]

The loud anniversary of an Azerbaijani poet of the middle ages was, for the current situation, vital in the interests of the policy of harmonizing international relations in the South Caucasus, which was being held by the Soviet government and the ACP(b) (All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks)).

The First Secretary of the CC CP(b) (Central Committee of the Communist Party (bolsheviks)) of the Azerbaijani SSR of those years, M.D. Baqerov, had very strong anti-Iranian feelings, and undoubtedly was a patriot of Azerbaijan, although a one who could get carried away.[5]  It is enough to say that in the Resolution of the 14th Convention of the CP(b) of the Azerbaijani SSR, which was accepted due to Baqerov’s speech, demanded “foundational improvements in the teaching of the Azeri language, while clearing it out of Arabisms, Farsisms, Ottomanisms, etc.”[6]  Baqerov tried to attentively follow the study of history and culture of the peoples of Caucasus and South Caucasus, and actively struggled against situations that seemed wrong and ideologically fallacious to him.  One such situation surely was the statement that Nezami is a Persian poet.  Mostly, due to M.D. Baqerov, the anniversary was very successful.

It must be admitted that Baqerov was left in a difficult situation, when the problem of a literary anniversary appeared for Azerbaijan.  The question of Nezami, as it was put in the Republic, in the 1930s, was a question that did not only concern, or was in the level, of the Republic.  His decision was outside of the competency of the leadership of the Azerbaijani SSR.  The attempt to reconsider the nationality of Nezami and his works in the interests of Azerbaijan, could have been viewed by the official Moscow as demonstration of nationalist tendencies – an attempt to “better” the past of the Azerbaijani people, strengthen the authority of the Republic in the determent of the historical truth.

How definitely and harshly the political leadership of the USSR struggled with the displays of nationalism, as well as nationalists, was perfectly known.  Objections from scholars could be expected as well, primarily from the Leningrad specialists, who created the trend for the Soviet literary Orientalism.  However, it worked; and the “transfer” of Nezami as an Azerbaijani poet was done in a very well thought manner, fast, persistently, but properly, and overall, even elegantly.  But everything started with a scandal.

It was planned that in 1938, there would be a decade of the Azerbaijani art in Moscow, for which the Republic had decided to prepare an “Anthology of Azerbaijani Poetry” in Russian.  The first version of the anthology, which was supposed to present “the greatest masters – the creators of the Azerbaijani poetry,” the inclusion of Nezami’s poetry was not considered.  This was the case in May, 1937.[7]  But already on August 1, the press reported that the two-year work on translating poetry for the Anthology is over, and the Russian reader can become acquainted with the monumental poetry of Nezami.  “At some point, the dirty hand of the enemies of the people was placed on the Anthology […] they did everything so that the Anthology looked perhaps more skinny and decrepit,” reported the newspaper.[8]  But there are not enough bases to argue that the decision to include the poetry of Nezami was based purely on the political basis.  Argument for this decision could have been the view of the Soviet Orientalist, Yu.N. Marr on Nezami.  In one of his works, he had stated that as soon as he started researching Rustaveli, Khaqani, and Nezami, and their epochs, he right away was convinced that “the epoch and authors are in a disgracefully neglected situation.”[9]  Back in 1929, Yu.N. Marr asserted that “Nezami is its own for Caucasus, especially for the ethnic group that has kept the Persian tradition in its literature until recently, i.e. for Azerbaijan, where the Ganjian poet is more respected than in Persia.”[10]  Of course, “its own for Azerbaijan” is not the same as “Azerbaijani,” but in the middle of 1937, Marr who had died in 1935, was the only Soviet Orientalist on whose research could the proponents of the view of Nezami as an Azerbaijani poet lean.  It must be noted that luck was on their side as a whole, and especially because it was Yuriy Marr in Particular who spoke of Nezami.  His scholarly reputation in the eyes of the political leadership of the country must have been somehow connected with the reputation of his father – Academician N.Ya. Marr, whose name was very authoritative in those years in the Soviet scholarship, as well as in the Party circles.  The rays of father’s popularity fell on the son too.

They did not fail to tie the name of N.Ya. Marr with the Nezami-studies in Azerbaijan:  “Special merit in the revision of the scholarly understanding of Nezami is owed to the Azerbaijani scholars, Academician N.Ya. Marr, Professor Yu.N. Marr, and others.  They hold the merit of revising the Bourgeoisie Oriental scholarship, which has distorted the image of the Azerbaijani poet…”[11]  This reference to Marr appeared more for political reasons, because there were no direct statements of the scholar that Nezami is an Azerbaijani poet.

The Institute of History, Language and Literature of the Azerbaijani Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR started working on the study and the preparation of publication of the works of Nezami Ganjavi, who from 1937 was confidently referred to as the great classic of the Azerbaijani literature.[12]  In the published materials in Azerbaijan in the second half of 1937, where Nezami is mentioned, his name and works are often closely tied to the name and works of Shota Rustaveli.  Showing the speech by an Azerbaijani literary in a ceremonial plenum of the Baku Municipal Soviet of Deputies of the Workers for the 750th anniversary of the poem, “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” of is a good example.  “Comrade Merza Ebrahimov names the classics of the Azerbaijani literature – Nezami and Khaqani – that lived and created in the epoch of Rustaveli, who were struggling for the same high ideals and aspirations, which were geniusly sang by the great Shota, and which were realized only in our Stalin epoch.”[13]  The name of Rustaveli here helps give the basic idea about the consonance of the works and ideas of Nezami with the ideas of the Stalin epoch more tacitly, and consequently some ideas of Stalin himself.  The support of Moscow is extremely important in the Azerbaijani decision of the Nezami question.

Next year of 1938 became the year when the USSR once and for all ended the “negligence” of Nezami.  The Decade of Azerbaijani Arts was passing with great success in Moscow from 5th to the 15th of April of 1938.  In Baku, the “Azerneshr” publishing published 700 remembrance copies of the “Anthology of the Azerbaijani Poetry,” where there were Nezami Ganjavi’s poems translated by Konstantin Simonov.  The editor of the anthology was only one – V. Lugovskiy.  It is logical to conclude that the other two – Samed Vurgun and S. Shamilov – were removed in 1937 as those who were not able to work, but it is presumed that the reason was not only this.  According to some sources the anthology had a second editor as well – Merza Ebrahimov (Esmail Merza Azhdar-Zadeh), who was already the Head of the Department for Arts Affairs under the Soviet People’s Committee [Ministry ] of the Azerbaijani SSR, but his name was not in the book either.[14]  The reason that the name of high ranking officials disappeared from the list of editors of the anthology was probably because the work was supposed to look as a result of the initiative and work of only creative intelligentsia of Azerbaijan and Russia.  Moreover, the work done only by (only on the surface) non-Azerbaijani poets is harder to consider a nationalist view of Nezami.  The anonymous foreword to the Anthology says, “Among the Azerbaijani poets of the 12th century, Nezami is highly regarded,” but this assertion is not backed by anything.[15]

The publication of this anthology was a crafty tactical move to make a decision about Nezami’s situation.  Undoubtedly, this book was being given to the members of the government of the USSR and the leadership of the ACP(b), who showed lively interest in the Decade of the Azerbaijani Art, among whom was Stalin.  If anything in the contents of the “Anthology of the Azerbaijani Poetry” (for example, assertion on the national belongingness of Nezami) would bring about objection and politicized criticism “from above,” the fault for the publishing of a flawed book would remain on the leadership of the Azerbaijani SSR; however, there were no proofs that their views on Nezami were reflected in the book.

However, exposing these views with full manifest, as with the authors of the foreword in the Anthology, would not be too hard.  But, evidently, there were no questions or objections to the contents of the Anthology.  In any way, the first edition of the “Anthology of the Azerbaijani Poetry” had a strange fate.  It is unlikely that the Anthology remained practically unknown to the literary people and scholars; however, for some reason people did not talk much about it.  The short essay, “Nezami Ganjavi,” which was part of the foreword in the book, is not mentioned in the work of Rostam Aliev, “Nezami: A Short Bibliographic Reference” (Baku, 1982) either.

On the day of the opening of the Decade, Pravda [“The Truth” – official Communist Party of the USSR Publication] had an editorial, “The Art of the Azerbaijani People.”  It stated, “Back in the age of the feudal lawlessness, the Azerbaijani people gave birth to the greatest artists.  The names of Nezami, Khaqani, Fuzuli of Baghdad are on par with the Persian poets Saadi and Hafez.  Nezami, Khaqani, and Fuzuli were flaming patriots of their people who were serving the foreign newcomers, only under pressure.”[16]  The meaning of the article is hard to overstate for the “repatriation” of Nezami to Azerbaijan.  This was a proof that the official Moscow agreed with the decision made in the Azerbaijani SSR on Nezami.

On the next day, April 6, 1938, “The Baku Worker” republished the article from Pravda (which strengthened its meaning for the Republic).  From this moment on, the official Baku every time would demonstrate that gave up the initiative to Moscow, and the course of the 800th Anniversary of Nezami is coming from Moscow.

On April 18, 1938, Pravda came out with “The Triumph of the Azerbaijani Art.”  “But despite all the prohibitions and persecutions, in defiance of victimizations, the heroic Azerbaijani people would bring out those who expressed their rebellious, courageous, and angry spirits.  Back in the age of the feudal lawlessness, the Azerbaijani people gave birth to such greatest artists as Nezami, Khaqani, Fuzuli.  They were flaming patriots of their people, the champions of freedom and independence of their country.”  This was a better reference of Nezami by Pravda.[17]  It seems that the poet no longer served the foreign newcomers.

In the preparations of this material, it should be assumed, the Azerbaijani side took part with the leadership of Baqerov and Ebrahimov, who were part of the delegation to Moscow of Azerbaijan to the Decade of the Azerbaijani Art.  Only Baqerov could coordinate the publication of these articles in different instances.

But whoever has written them, they reflected the official viewpoint of the CC ACP(b); this was the meaning of the writings of Pravda.  Only a select few Orientalists could contend the viewpoints, but they did not do it, maybe because the question of Nezami was quite contesting even before Pravda’s publication.  Here we can refer to the interpretations of Yu.N. Marr and A.N. Boldyrev.[18]  In the end of the 1940s, Bertels asserted that “Back in 1938, it was evident to me that groundlessly ascribing the whole of great, colossal Persian literature to Iran is not only wrong, but the largest mistake.  The Persian language was used by many people, which was the mother tongue of a completely different system.”[19]  It is quite possible that the reason for Bertels’ review of his former views on Nezami, whom he considered a Persian poet only in 1935-1936, was the publication in Pravda.

A viewpoint was said in our scholarly literature that “E.E. Bertels publicly called Nezami an Azerbaijani poet earlier than anyone.”[20]  However, as the deeper research of the question showed, the conclusion that Nezami is an Azerbaijani poet, was done by the scholars, literary people, and politicians of Azerbaijan without much concern for the view of their Russian colleagues, and before E.E. Bertels.

On May 9, 1938, another “Anthology of the Azerbaijani Poetry,” which was under the edition of the same V. Lugovskiy and Samed Vurgun, was given to print to the Moscow State Publishing House of the Artistic Literature.  It also had the foreword, “The Poetry of the Azerbaijani People”, which showed the authors – Azerbaijani literary people and scholars, G. Arasly, M. Aref, and M. Rafili.  Evidently, it was mentioned before the Decade of the Azerbaijani Art in Moscow – “A mass publication of the Anthology is being published in Moscow.”[21]

The initiators of the review of national belongingness of Nezami were ready for good and bad luck.

The textual closeness of the two texts, one of which was published in Baku and the other in Moscow, of the “Anthology of the Azerbaijani Poetry,” shows that the group of writers was the same or almost the same.  The Moscow version of the Anthology was signed only two days left to a year later – May 7, 1937 – and the reason is not known.

The initiators of the campaign for the 800th Anniversary of Nezami waited a long time for the scholarly circles of Leningrad and Moscow to make a clear statement on the poet.

On May 8, 1938, the Council of the People’s Commissars [The Council of Ministers ] of the USSR, which was looking over the working plan of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, decided not to approve the plan and return it for further deliberation to the Academy of Sciences.[22]

On May 17, 1938, there was a state banquet for the workers of the Highest School.  Stalin made a small speech, rather a toast at the banquet, where he said, “For the flourishing of sciences, those sciences, the people of which, while understanding the power and meaning of the scientific traditions and using them for the interests of sciences, still do not want to be slaves of these traditions; which has courage, resolution to break the old traditions, norms and arrangements when they become old, when they become breaks for movement forward; and the one that can create new traditions, new norms, new arrangements.”[23]  All of this could be used for the study of Nezami.

On July 25, 1938, the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR once again gave a negative vote to the working plan of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.[24]  The Presidium, while reviewing already the third version of the plan, on September 11, 1938, mentioned that “The scholarly councils of the institutes did not mobilize the whole collective of the workers for the struggle to fulfill the sayings of Comrade Stalin to develop and strengthen progressive sciences.”  They proposed that the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR enter the preparation of a scientific monograph on the “life and works of the great Azerbaijani poet, Nezami.”[25]  This meant the official recognition of Nezami Ganjavi as an Azerbaijani poet, as well as the Academy of Sciences as whole, and the Institute of the Oriental Studies.  The question of national belongingness of Nezami seemed decided completely.  Pravda “canonized” the view of Nezami as a poet – a patriot of Azerbaijan, who was not spiritually broken with the most difficult situations.  In the XIV Convention of the CP(b) of the Azerbaijani SSR, M.D. Baqerov referred to the 12th century as the “golden age of the Azerbaijani literature,” because “the great epic poet Nezami Ganjavi and no less gifted, beloved people’s poet of Azerbaijan, Khaqani, lived” at this age.[26]  This assessment was received in the Republic as a canonizing assessment, and in that very year one could read about the “epoch of Nezami, which has come into history as the “Golden Age of the Azerbaijani culture.”[27]  “This is how the Secretary of the CC of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, Comrade M.D. Baqerov defined it,” was reported to the so-called “wide reader” of the USSR.[28]  And for him, it was certainly authoritative.

Both the political circles, as well as the scholars of Azerbaijan were fully aware that the best results in the works on the legacy of Nezami – a work that by its nature related to the classical Oriental philology – could be achieved only through cooperation with the specialists from the Oriental centers of Russia, primarily Leningrad.  The Republic acknowledged that the “Institute of History, Language, and Literature is still the most weak part of the AzBAS [Azerbaijani Branch of the Academy of Sciences ].”[29]  At the same time, in Russian Orientalism there already appeared a good tradition, even school of helping the peoples of the USSR in their national and cultural building.  The press had a report: “The leaders of the organization of Azerbaijan are attracting to the preparation of the Anniversary (Nezami – A.T.) the Institute of Oriental Studies of the AS of the USSR, scholars, artists, and poets.”[30]

E.E. Bertels took the most active part in this process, and it is an interesting, mostly a model fragment of the history of the Soviet Orientalism.  The political situations played an important role in the biography of E.E. Bertels.  Maybe the most difficult ones and the most unique were connected to his works on Nezami.

There were achievements in 1938, but the Anniversary Campaign for the 800th Anniversary of Nezami as a whole was not going as dynamically, as its initiators wanted, and required constant control and stimulation.  This is not strange either.  With all due respect and interest towards Nezami, the problem of his anniversary in the period of 1938-1941 objectively could not be considered as a primary problem.  Moreover, on February 3, 1939, Pravda published an article by E.E. Bertels, “Genius Azerbaijani Poet, Nezami.”[31]  Getting published by own initiative in Pravda, especially not long before the XVIII Convention of the ACP(b) was obviously very difficult.  Therefore, it can be assumed that the article was ordered.  This was E.E. Bertels’ first public statement to the whole country, where he called Nezami an Azerbaijani poet.  Almost ten years later, Bertels stated: “To ascertain ethnic belongingness of every author worthy of attention, and then reclassify them by different literatures; well such a task, firstly, would be impossible to implement, because we do not have the data on the ethnic belongingness of old writers, and will likely never have them.  Secondly, methodologically it would have been faulty to the most extreme.  Consequently, we would be building literature based on blood, based on race.  We do not need to mention that we cannot and will not build literature in such a fashion; I in any case will not; if somebody else wants to, please, it is his personal business.”[32]  However, in his 1939 article, Bertels did not bring any proof that Nezami is an Azerbaijani poet, other than the fact that the Poet was born and lived in Ganja (future Kirovabad).  This is one of the riddles of the Scholar: he, for some reasons, decided to recede from his original scholarly views in the 1930s, or they changed at the end of the 1940s?

E.E. Bertels’ article in Pravda surely was an important stage in the formation of the Soviet Nezami studies.  Academician and literalist, I.K. Luppov said: “If half a year ago, a “cellar” on Nezami was found in Pravda, if in the Soviet Union, an organ of the Party put a “cellar” on Nezami, it means that every conscious inhabitant of the Soviet Union must know who Nezami is.  It is an indication to all the directorate organizations, to all the instances of the Republican, County, District scale, and here the Academy of Sciences must say its word in this work, while not violating its high scholarly dignity.”[33]

However, the view on Nezami in the publications of Pravda, could be reviewed, and accepted as wrong.  Many people who were declared “enemies of the people” were published in different times in Pravda and many wrong viewpoints had appeared in its pages.  A good chance interfered into the situation, possibly a very well organized one.

On April 3, 1939, Pravda published the material “On the Results of the XVIII Convention of the ACP(b).  The speech by Comrade M. Bazhan in the meeting of the intelligentsia of Kiev on April 2, 1939.”  The Ukrainian poet, Mikol Bazhan informed about the meeting between J.V. Stalin with writers, Alexander Fadeev and Peter Pavlenko.  “Comrade Stalin especially attentively asked, was interested, and even checked the knowledge of these Comrades about the phenomena and names of the Tajik, Kyrgyz, Kalmyk, Lak people’s literature, whose literature unfortunately, even today is not fully known to the Soviet reader.  Comrade Stalin spoke of the Azerbaijani poet, Nezami, quoted his works to destroy the viewpoint by his own words that this great poet of our brotherly Azerbaijani people, should be given to the Iranian literature, just because he has written most of his works in the Iranian language.  Nezami, in his poems himself asserts that he was compelled to resort to the Iranian language, because he is not allowed to address his own people in his native tongue.  This very place did Comrade Stalin quote with the genius swing of his thought and erudition, while including everything remarkable that has been created by the history of mankind.”[34]

Although Stalin’s viewpoint was promulgated literally through the third person, certainly it was told correctly, and the conversation with Stalin in fact did take place.  Nobody would even think of coming up with something from Stalin’s mouth.  After M. Bazhan’s speech was published, E.E. Bertels’ article on Nezami became of secondary importance.  A logical question arises: why did Stalin remember of Nezami, especially during the political situation of 1939?  It must be taken into account that Stalin loved poetry and understood it, and he loved Baku.  However, even without these factors, he perfectly understood the political meaning of the anniversary of Nezami – the Azerbaijani poet.

Bazhan’s report was met with enthusiasm in Baku.  On April 10, 1939, the Meeting of the Intelligentsia of the city adopted the poem for J.V. Stalin.  The authors of the poem were Samed Vurgun, Rasul Reza, and Soleiman Rostam, while the translators to Russian were P. Panchenko, I. Oratovskiy, and V. Gurvich.  On April 16, 1939, this message was published in Pravda.  It has the following lines:

Vladeli nashym Nizami, pevtsa pokhitiv chuzhaki,

No gnezda, svitye pevtsom v serdtsakh preznatsel’nykh krepky

Ty nam vernul ego stikhi, ego velich’e vozvratil

Bessmertnym slovom ty o nem stranitsy mira ozaril[35]

 

|[They] Possessed our Nezami, the singer| stolen| [the] aliens|

|But| [the] the words sung by [the] singer| in hearts| grateful| are strong|

|You| to us| returned his poems, his greatness [you] returned

|With immortal word| you about him| the pages of the world| [you] brightened

            On the next day, “The Baku Worker” republished the Russian version referring to Pravda.  But interestingly the Azerbaijani original was not published until April 17, 1939.[36]

            The official Baku underlined that all the events on Nezami’s anniversary which have a political aspect are done through the initiative of Moscow, and by Moscow’s approval.

            The new interest, which was shown by Stalin on Nezami, gave a new impulse for the further development of the anniversary campaign.  In Azerbaijan, Committee for Preparation and Carrying-out of the 800th Birth Anniversary of Nezami Ganjavi under the Council of the People’s Commissars (CPS) of the AzSSR, which started its work in May of 1939.  Its membership included all three authors of the Address to Stalin, as well as E.E. Bertels, I.A. Orbeli, Merza Ebrahimov, M.D. Baqerov, who was formally an ordinary member of the Anniversary Committee and others.[37]  However, the activities of the Committee were naturally under the control of Baqerov.

            After the viewpoint of Stalin on the issue of Nezami was published, the affair of publishing the “Anthology of the Azerbaijani Poetry” in Moscow made a progress, and hardly is it an accident.  In the autumn of 1939, it came out in 15,000 copies.  Poetess A. Adalis, wrote a very benevolent review, which has nonetheless strange and difficult to explain positions.  The review say that such an anthology is coming out for the “first time in the history of world literature,” and “a clear word is said about the belongingness to the Azerbaijani people of a number of world classics in this book.”[38]  The full impression that Adalis did not know anything about the Anthology, published in 1938 in Baku, in which, by the way, a fragment from “Kor-oglu” epoch, translated by her took place.

            In the foreword of the Moscow Anthology, and the assertion that Nezami Ganjavi is the great Azerbaijani poet-romantic, leans on a selection of arguments.  There is a reference on Yu.N. Marr’s saying, who is referred to as the best Soviet Iranologist, an excellent expert on Nezami and Khaqani, and a reference to Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR “in its special decision on the anniversary of Nezami firmly and decisively accepted in Nezami a great Azerbaijani poet.”[39]  Here the Azerbaijani authors pretended that everything that is happening around Nezami has been started by the initiative and scholarly viewpoints from Russia.  However, local proofs of belongingness of Nezami’s works to the Azerbaijani literature were promoted.  “Lively pages of history appear in the works of Nezami.  Fantasy, fabulous imagination interweave with the true pictures of life of the Azerbaijani people.  The attack of the Rus’ to Barda, a fable story about a Russian Tsarevna (Princess), beauty Shirin and Tsaritsa (Queen) Shamira, the Amazons, battles described in different poems of Nezami – all of this is historically and geographically connected with Azerbaijan and the Caucasian middle age world.

            “Is it necessary after this to proof after this the right of the Azerbaijani people to consider the works of Nezami as its own!  Inability and reactionary works of traditional attachment of Nezami to the Iranian literature by the Bourgeoisie Orientalists is evident.  Artificial, forced distortion of the history of world poetry, not understanding the role of the Farsi language and the Iranian tradition in the history of the Azerbaijani culture, denial of centuries-long history, of high and rich culture and the literature of the Azerbaijani people by the Bourgeoisie Orientalism; all of this brings to the denial of the large historical truth, and strong creative powers of the people.” [40]  The supporters of the new viewpoint on Nezami saw political enemies in their opponents, and were not going to be sentimental with them.

            Baku also declared that the Azerbaijani people “honors the memory of its great poet for 800 years,”[41] and the clear insufficient level of knowledge of Nezami’s works was explained in the following manner: “Base agents of fascism, Bourgeoisie nationalists, super power chauvinists did everything possible to hide from the Azerbaijani people the heritage of its great son – Poet Nezami.”[42]  Such formulations also clearly did not allow the wish to discuss – whose poet is Nezami.

            M.D. Baqerov in every possible way propagated the version that the return of Nezami and his works to Azerbaijan is namely due to Stalin.  In December of 1939, in the meeting of the Party activists of the city of Baku, dedicated to the 60th birthday of J.V. Stalin, Baqerov made a speech, where he quoted Mikola Bazhan, and added: “This saying of Stalin, which is full of wisdom, teaches us how our relation should be to our past cultural heritage.”[43]

            In 1939, a volume of BSE came out where E.E. Bertels in his article on Nezami refers to him as a great Azerbaijani poet.[44]  This in a way formalized the review process by our Orientalists of the national belongingness of Nezami Ganjavi.

Undoubtedly, Bertels was well aware of Mikol Bazhan’s speech and the details of the future scholarly-political campaign, and at the time he did not see a principal fault in some politicization of some works on eastern literature.

We will bring, out of necessity, a quote from currently forgotten article by E.E. Bertels, which talks about the hero of Nezami’s “Eskandarnameh”:

The wise man travelled for a long time.  He was in the south, in the west, and the east, but could not find happiness anywhere.  Finally, his travels brought him to the north.  If we tried to draw his travels on a map, then this place would be approximately in Siberia.  And there Eskandar finally found what he was looking for.  He met people who did not know rich or poor; who did not know depression or oppression; who did not know kings or tyrants.  In this open society where powers are not spent on struggle, everything is directed towards improvement and fixing of life.

There people were able to get rid of illnesses, and prolong the happy life of people.  Everything flowers there; everything makes the eye happy; this is the reign of everlasting peace and everlasting happiness.  After he fond this amazing country, Eskandar exclaims that if he knew about its existence earlier, he would not waste time on his travels, and would make its lifestyle a law.

Perhaps to the bourgeoisie researchers this country seemed a “scholastic imagination.”  We, Soviet readers of Nezami, look at this from a completely different viewpoint.  We know this country; we are lucky to live in this country and know which way one should go in order to achieve such happiness.

It also excites the Soviet reader that the greater Azerbaijani thinker of the 12th century, put this country in the geographic location, where his great dream was in fact realized.  Let us note that all of Nezami’s works end here; that all of his works were to get to this culminating period … And now, in the country where socialism became victorious, a country that does not know the fear of historical truth, Soviet scholars take onto themselves an honorable task to give to the peoples of their country the treasures that were denied to them for centuries.[45]

 

            What would a word of thanks to Stalin for his help to scholarship mean as oppose to the abovementioned words of political loyalty?!  Bertels, according to a number of his publications, was very respectful of J.V. Stalin, however, in any of his Russian-language works of this era on Nezami, does he mention that the poet has been returned to Azerbaijan by Stalin, and hence there are no words of thanks to Stalin.  It is possible that this has been mentioned in any of Bertels’ small newspaper notes, probably in the Azeri language, however the possibility is very slim.

            Actually, in Moscow and in Leningrad – the largest cultural and scholarly centers – as of 1939, there is a widely accepted practice: not to mention the role of Stalin in the decision of national belongingness of Nezami Ganjavi in the press.  It is not evident whose initiative this was – the government or the scholars and the literary circles.  This, as a rule, was extended to the Azerbaijani authors in the Russian publications.

            The story that Stalin returned Nezami to Azerbaijan is not mentioned in the Moscow edition of the “Anthology of the Azerbaijani Poetry,” although the Decade of the Azerbaijani Arts of April of 1938 is mentioned.  In 1939, for occasion of the 60th birth anniversary of Stalin, Samed Vurgun published an article in the Literaturnaya Gazeta (Lietrary Gazette), named “Pride of People.”  He has written there that “Comrade Stalin loves the Azerbaijani popular proverbs and uses them in an appropriate situation.  Comrade Stalin lived in Azerbaijan back in his young age.  More than thirty years have passed since, but he has not forgotten the Azerbaijani proverbs”[46]; but not a word about Stalin returning the poetry and greatness of Nezami to Azerbaijan.

            In 1940, there was the 20th anniversary of the Soviet rule in Azerbaijan.  In all the festivities a single message to J.V. Stalin was accepted.  In it Nezami was quoted; there were words about the everyday patriotic Stalinist care, which has warmed the Azerbaijani people; that Stalin is well aware of the history of this people; but there was not a word about Stalin returning Nezami to it.[47]

            15-20 May, 1940, Moscow held the Decade of Azerbaijani Literature.  One of its participants has written about the trip to Moscow: “We are headed by the greatest representative of the world literature, a genius poet of Azerbaijan, the ever living Nezami … He threw the heavy chains of tyrants and oppressors, from himself, who were forcing him to write in a strange language, and came back to his beloved land.  Nezami is going to Moscow, he is going to thank Stalin, who returned him to his native Azeerbaijani people.”[48]  During the Decade, Samed Vurgun, made a speech in the Lenin Military-Political Academy, and gave a new accent to the theme of “repatriation” of Nezami.  “Foul enemies of the people, nationalists-Musavatists, Pan-Turks, and other traitors wanted to take away Nezami from their own people, just because he wrote most of his works in the Iranian language.  But the great genius of the workers, our father and leader, Comrade Stalin, returned to the Azerbaijani people their greatest poet.”[49]  Well, Stalin really did fight Pan-Turkism very strongly.

            In 1940, in Baku, the book of E.E. Bertels, “The Great Azerbaijani Poet, Nezami: Epoch, Life, Works,” where Stalin was not mentioned.  Although the version of Stalin’s great role in returning Nezami to Azerbaijani people, started to dominate in Azerbaijan, none of Bertels’ works published there, Stalin was not mentioned by editors; although they could, especially if Baqerov would demand.

            In 1941, the book of Mikael Rafili came out in Moscow, which practically had the same name, “Nizami Ganjavi: Epoch, Life, and Works.”  Its author, at the end referred to Stalin’s saying about the poet as “the greatest stage in the development of scholarship on Nezami.”[50]  Hence it seems logical that the book opened with the corresponding quote from M. Bazhan’s speech.

            Was it an exchange of experiences or correction of someone’s (E.E. Bertels’?) political mistake?  The idea of opening the book with reference to Stalin’s words might not have been Rafili’s.  He was Responsible Secretary of the Anniversary Committee of Nezami under the CPC (Council of People’s Commissars) of the Azerbaijani SSR, but in his publications on Nezami, (primarily before the war) often did not mention Stalin at all.

            Under the accompaniment of the politicized anniversary ballyhoo, the translating scholarly-research and publishing work became more active, which was important both politically and culturally.  According to E.E. Bertels, already by 1948, by the hard work of Soviet scholars, a new field in scholarship was started – Nezamiology – whose works, written in the past decades “are much better than what Western Europe could write in one and a half centuries.”[51]

            The war did not stop the process of creating the Soviet Nezamiology.  In autumn of 1941, the 800th anniversary of Nezami was even celebrated in Leningrad.  “On October 17,” retells Piotrovskiy, “there was a meeting dedicated to Nezami in Hermitage, to which many of its participants, including two of its speakers came straight from the front.  The bomb shelters of the Hermitage were prepared in such a way that, in case of necessity, the meeting could be continued there.”[52]  The first speaker was the director of the Hermitage, Academician J.A. Orbeli, “he delivered a fiery speech, which warmed hearts.”[53]  Then the gathered ones listened to the speeches by A.N. Boldyrev, G.V. Ptitsyn, M.M. D’yakonov, and Poet V.A. Rozhdenstvenskiy read out his translations of Nezami.[54]

            In this way, Nezami’s anniversary was held according to plan, and with most possible dignity.  It was possible not to continue the 800th anniversary campaign for the Poet after this.  However, Baku disagreed.

            In 1944, the abovementioned book of M.D. Baqerov was published.  Victory in the war already near; and one could build definite plans for the peaceful post-war life, and remember the Nezami celebrations that were cut off by war.

            In May of 1945, Baku built the Nezami Museum.  “Just starting the peaceful built-up, the workers of Azerbaijan honored the memory of their immortal countryman.”[55]  The visitors of the Museum in the Hall “Nezami and Our Epoch” could see “The words of Comrade Stalin about Nezami as a great Azerbaijani poet, who was compelled to resort to the Iranian language, because he was not allowed to address his people in the native language, with golden letters were placed on the wall”[56]  Izvestiya reported on it, but the Baku Worker for some reason did not pay attention to this.  In 1946, Baku published Baqerov’s book in the second edition.  Whatever the reasons, this was another reminder about the Nezami problem; about the uncelebrated anniversary of the Poet in the Republic.  The question about why this anniversary was not held in 1945, 1946, but only in 1947, is still not answered.  Nevertheless, E.E. Bertels, most likely because of the circumstances, said that the date of birth of Nezami “cannot be considered firmly fixed” and “there are basis to believe that he was born a few years later, or in 1147.”[57]

            Victory in the Great Patriotic War strengthened the feeling of national identity and national pride of the peoples of the USSR.  In such a atmosphere, in summer-autumn of 1947, a limited discussion on the circumstances of Nezami’s life and works, and the level of cultural development during the Shirvan-Shahs.  Without getting to the details of the discussion, that such an argument appeared: “The Azerbaijani people – according to Comrade Skosyrev – were almost all illiterate, destitute, and without rights.  They were under the foreign domination of Shirvan-Shahs, and their national culture was trampled upon.  The question arises that on what basis were the works of Nezami born then?  Is it possible that a people almost fully illiterate and destitute, according to Comrade Skosyrev, could create Nezami?  Why did Skosyrev need these black colors towards the Azerbaijani literature of the 12th century?”[58]  And this underlined that the Nezami anniversary was needed for Azerbaijan as a political measure as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article 2 of Tamazshvilli: Afterword: (Iranology in Russia and Iranologists)

 

The life and the work of Evgeni Eduardovich Bertels have not been studied, as yet, as fully as they deserve, both by virtue of their own outstanding character, and as a reflection of the peculiarities of the formation and the development of oriental studies in the USSR. Therefore it is objectively necessary to enter any materials that tell us something new about E. E. Bertels into scholarly circulation. This applies to the text of B. N. Zakhoder's speech, published now, which is dominated by the motif of the immense significance of Bertels's work in the development of research in the area of oriental philology, and the scholar's contribution to the cause of acquainting broad masses of readers with the literary heritage  of the East. But among those, probably not numerous, readers who are well acquainted with the biography and the creative output of E. E. Bertels, the first impression might be that they are facing a text of rather ordinary anniversary celebration speech, for all its vividness and elegance, a speech not violating the canons of its genre and, moreover, containing little that is new. There would be grounds to be satisfied with such an estimate. But feeling the atmosphere in which the speech was made, getting a notion of the reasons why it became what it was, realizing what it says about the relations between E. E. Bertels and B. N. Zakhoder, and what is its significance for the characterization of them both – in short, understanding this speech in full, is only possible by implementing the recommendation – or the demand – of another well-known orientalist, E. M. Zhukov: “We are obligated to translate everything, through to the end, into the language of politics”. That was said precisely in connection with the discussion of the works of E. E. Bertels, in the process of the academic-political campaign of struggle against bourgeois cosmopolitanism in Soviet oriental studies that developed in the late forties. That campaign was conducted mainly “in the language of politics”, as also was (though to a lesser degree) another campaign that took place simultaneously: for a Marxist treatment of the history of literatures of Central Asia and the Caucasus. Both campaigns have remained in the history of the nation's oriental studies as very ambiguous phenomena. In their course, E. E. Bertels was subjected to harsh, politicized criticism.

            It is logical that the events of both academic-political campaigns are only mentioned by B. N. Zakhoder in passing, as intensive and fruitful discussions; nevertheless, they have largely determined the content and the goals of his speech. Even though Zakhoder is evidently well-informed, yet in many details he is imprecise, sometimes deliberately so. He could not fail to know that the most criticized work of E. E. Bertels was his recent, 1949, article, “Persian-language literature in the Central Asia” 2. The author said in it: “By the Persian literature we shall, from now on, understand all the literary works written in the so-called 'neo-Persian' language, irrespective of their authors' ethnic identity and of the geographical point where these works emerged.” 3 It was around this statement that the passions mainly flared.

            It all began with the appearance of A. A. Fadeev, the General Secretary of the Union of Soviet Writers, on the podium of the XII Plenum of the SSW (December 15-20, 1948). 4  The problems discussed at the plenum became the topic of an  article in “Culture and Life” [“Kultura i zhizn”] , the newspaper of the Department of Agitation and Propaganda of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Its author, the writer K. M. Simonov, asserted, following Fadeev: “Theories still have circulation among our orientalists, according to which the history of the literature of the peoples of Central Asia, beginning almost as far off as the middle of the past century, should be considered as some unified history. These scholars, under the guise of “historical objectivity”, turn over to Persians, to Persian literature, a whole series of outstanding writers and major literary phenomena, undoubtedly belonging to the history of the literatures of the peoples of the Soviet Central Asian republics. This question was raised especially sharply ... in connection with the history of the Tajik literature. These and a whole series of other errors, present in works of historians of literature in the republics and of orientalists in Moscow and Leningrad require analysis and severe criticism and correction.” 5 Both Fadeev and Simonov were speaking about, among others, E. E. Bertels.

            In the Moscow group of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences (IOS AS), where Bertels was working in the late 40s, a discussion took place, at an open Party meeting, over a report by the Institute's deputy director A. K. Borovkov “For a Marxist-Leninist history of the literatures of Central Asia and the Caucasus” (the discussion was held on February 7, 10, and 24, 1949). On April 4-6, an extended combined meeting was held of the academic council of the Pacific Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and the Bureau of the Moscow Group of IOS AS, discussing the report of the Pacific Institute director E. M. Zhukov: “On the struggle against bourgeois cosmopolitanism in oriental studies.” During both meetings, colleagues blamed E. E. Bertels for deviating from Marxism, for reflecting in his works the objectivist errors and the cosmopolitan views characteristic of bourgeois oriental studies. It would be a stretch to assert that the criticism pursued the goal of “extirpating” Bertels from oriental studies. But he, too, was the target of calls to expose to the bottom and discard the “regional cosmopolitan theories of 'classical Persian literature'” and to “smash to the end the miserable bunch of rootless cosmopolitans, poisoning with their toxic breath the atmosphere of creative surge in our country.”

            In the discussion over Borovkov's report, Bertels admitted: “I must say candidly that those papers which I wrote on the issues of Persian literature, in  no way I want to claim that this was remotely similar, not only to Marxism, but even to anything approaching it.” 6  But at the same time he was in no hurry (and that, too, was well known to B. N. Zakhoder) to agree unreservedly with the criticism of his views. “To find out the ethnic identity of every author worth notice, and then classify them over the various literatures – but such a task would be, first of all, impossible to perform, because we have no data on the ethnic identity of old writers, and, probably, we will never have them; and, secondly, that would be methodologically vicious to the extreme. We would, then, be constructing literature by blood, by race. It hardly needs saying that we cannot and shall not be constructing literature in such a way, I won't, at least – if someone else wants to do it, let him, that is his private affair” Bertels said in the same statement, and he added: “How to draw the dividing line between the Persian and the Tajik literatures, I, frankly, do not know. If we take the position that a writer must necessarily be assigned to the place where he was born and where he acted for the greatest part of his life, then that principle will lead us nowhere.”

            A. K. Borovkov called E. E. Bertels's statement unsatisfactory and non-self-critical, because the latter “did not say that the criticism of his views is just” and “repeated those usual assertions that he had made even before.”8

            In the same discussion, B. N. Zakhoder, first making the reservation that he was not a specialist in literary history, agreed with A. A. Fadeev that “cosmopolitanism has, undoubtedly, influenced many theses of the Academy of Sciences corresponding member E. E. Bertels” “as a result of the uncritical acceptance by him of the erroneous theories of the pre-revolutionary literary historian A. N. Veselovski.”9  Besides that, Zakhoder did not criticize Bertels, but also did not defend him, though in 1949 it would have been been both timely and appropriate to give the characteristic of Bertels expressed by him later, at the anniversary celebration: as a Soviet scholar “who has not stopped in his development, did not ossify in the traditions imbibed before, but kept growing and developing together with the growth and development of our science.” Such behavior of B. N. Zakhoder is explainable, of course, not by his cowardice etc. (in the same discussion he unreservedly defended the Academician I. Yu. Krachkovski) but by his views concerning the issue, by his social-political position. They predetermined the evaluation by B. N. Zakhoder of the discussion and the criticism that was expressed in it.

            With the further development of the campaign of struggle against bourgeois cosmopolitanism in oriental studies (and not only in them), E. M. Zhukov accused E. E. Bertels in his report: “By spreading the legend about a unity of different peoples' literatures on the sole ground that the writers and the poets of these peoples wrote in the same literary language – though they expressed different thoughts, different views, different feelings and traditions – by contributing to that legend, Evgeni Eduardovich is obviously aiding the spread of the newest bourgeois-nationalist conceptions about an imaginary superiority of Iran's culture to the cultures of other countries adjacent to Iran, in particular when speaking about the Soviet socialist republics of Central Asia and  Transcaucasia.”10 The conversation in the language of politics about the scholarly work of E. E. Bertels was heating up.

            Bertels answered: “I must say that I love the peoples of Central Asia dearly, and will never let anyone abuse them. In Central Asia, they know that very well.” At the same time, he admitted, and made an attempt to explain, his mistake. “This criticism is, for the most part, fair. The article gave an occasion, and had to give an occasion, for seeing the relation between literatures of Near and Middle East as different from what it really is. [...] But it was already clear to me in 1938 that a wholesale assigning to Iran of all the immense, colossal, Persian literature – that this is not only wrong, but is a major mistake. So, one had to either look for a solution to this problem, or to discard this term altogether. And the whole issue is that I did not discard that old term, but tried to fill it with new content. And that is where this collision occurred. I was departing from an assumption that has been accepted in Tajikistan by public opinion through all these years – namely the assumption of commonality of the Tajik heritage with the Iranian – for the centuries X through XV.” 11

            But these explanations were not, apparently, accepted by many. Criticism directed at Bertels sounded also from the side of Avdiev, the Egyptologist: “His main theoretical and even, partially, political mistake is that he covered with one traditional and conventional term 'Persian literature' the literary output of different peoples of Western Asia, including the great literary heritage of the Azerbaijan people and the peoples of Central Asia, which have created through a number of centuries grandiose monuments of their fully original cultural creativity.

            Repeating in this way the statements of bourgeois scholars, and by this artificially impoverishing the great cultural heritage of the peoples of Soviet East, E. E. Bertels, anti-historically, artificially and quite incorrectly, constructed an ethnically abstract Oriental cosmos, devoid of substantial internal unity, in which Persians, Azerbaijanis, Uzbeks, Tajiks and other  peoples of Western Asia somehow merge. Such a point of view and its promotion in academic literature undoubtedly contribute to reactionary pan-Iranism, and do significant damage to, on one hand, development of Soviet Oriental studies and, on the other hand, development of national cultures of the peoples of the Soviet East.”12

                        Such a criticism required adoption of radical measures, and the topic “History of the Persian literature”, developed by E. E. Bertels, was excluded from the research plan of IOS AS. He was instructed to concentrate, temporarily, on dictionary work.

            In 1950, critical campaigns in Soviet oriental studies continued. In the article by I. S. Braginsky “On the wayside from urgent issues: on the collections 'Soviet Oriental Studies' [Sovetskoe Vostokovedenie] V (1948) and VI (1949) ”  the same work of E. E. Bertels was qualified as fundamentally erroneous due to the author's underestimation of the creative potential of the Tajik people. Braginsky drew a general conclusion that was categorical and severe: “The editorial board cultivates a backward, apolitical, and essentially unscientific, direction in oriental studies.”13

            On November 2, 1950, I. S. Braginsky's article was discussed in the Moscow group of  IOS AS. The main speaker, V. I. Avdiev, repeated, in fact, word for word what he had said almost a year earlier about E. E. Bertels and his works, including his aid to the reactionary pan-Iranism.

            And again, B. N. Zakhoder did not contradict Avdiev's point of view.

            The editorial board of “Soviet Oriental Studies” reacted to the criticism. The seventh issue of the collection, scheduled to appear in 1950, was to open with the article of A. K. Borovkov, “The current tasks of Soviet oriental studies”. It asserted that such an understanding of the history of literatures' development as Bertels's “inevitably leads to national nihilism, to denial of the richness of the literary heritage of the peoples of Central Asia and the Caucasus, to denial of the originality of their artistic creativity.”14 The collection was already set up, but 1950 was pregnant with new shocks and changes in Soviet oriental studies. The discussion in “Pravda” on the linguistic issues erupted, triggering the campaign against “Marrism” - and the leadership of IOS AS (its director was Academician V. V. Struve) correctly realized that the beginning of the new academic-political campaign, objectively more limited in scale, was in essence also the beginning of the folding down of the preceding campaign. It was decided not to publish Borovkov's article, replacing it with I. V. Stalin's works on the issues of linguistics. In the end, the seventh issue of “Soviet Oriental Studies” did not appear at all; but all the same the criticism of Bertels and others in print did not cease with that. After the transfer of IOS AS from Leningrad to Moscow (in August 1950) its new director S. P. Tolstov published an article, “For progressive Soviet oriental studies”, now quite forgotten even by historians of science, but at the time, of course, well-known  to all who worked at the Institute. This was the third criticism of Bertels on the pages of “Culture and Life” in less than two years (quite an “achievement” in its way), where an image was being formed of him as a scholar who is not transforming his erroneous, and politically harmful, views. And the estimates given in this paper's issues, irrespective of the person of their author, were perceived by many as a reflection of the opinion of the Party's leading organs.

            Bertels anniversary celebrations were held in a situation when the topic of his (true or imaginary) mistakes that had been discussed for about two years, was not yet closed. In preparing his speech Zakhoder had to take into account the consideration that, even though new acute issues, which were also being discussed “in the language of politics”, have significantly displaced the previous ones, there was no occasion to completely discount the latter. Therefore Zakhoder did touch on the issue of Bertels's mistakes, but, as was quite natural, softened and smoothed it to the maximum. The mention of the anniversary hero's passion for butterflies was an elegant and effective ploy: the butterfly wings might help freshen a tense or too-official atmosphere, should it congeal at the meeting.

            Zakhoder, naturally, remained a non-specialist in the history of literature; and his speech was, in essence, counteracting the residual influence of the critical campaigns, which had subsided, but not died out. Whether Zakhoder expected his speech to have a wider resonance, is unknown. It is also unknown whether he was following in full the criticism of Bertels that was also sounding in the republics. But, counter to many of the critics' assertions, Zakhoder says the direct opposite about Bertels. The example with the evaluation of Bertels's work by Academician Bartold may be a coincidence, but this coincidence is significant.

            At the time when, in Uzbekistan, the estimates of Alisher Navoi in the works of E. E. Bertels are being criticized, Zakhoder is speaking of Bertels 's struggle for clearing the image of Navoi, etc.

            In 1949, an accusation was voiced against E. E. Bertels that some of his theoretical constructs and conclusions lead “first of all, to the tearing away the peoples of the East from Russia, to introducing hostility between the Russian people and oriental peoples.” 16 And Zakhoder emphasizes that the activity of Bertels as a translator has “enriched our culture, contributed in every way to mutual cultural understanding between the Russian people and the peoples of the East.” E. E. Bertels is reproached for underestimating the originality of the Tajik literature – and Zakhoder declares that “with great hope and interest, our public is awaiting the appearance of the fundamental work, by the anniversary's hero, on the history of the Tajik literature.”

            Bertels is directly listed among those who “give away” writers representative of the peoples of the Soviet East, to Persia, to Iran; Zakhoder specifically underscores the anniversary hero's merit in “repatriating” to Azerbaijan the poet Nizami Ganjavi. One could probably find other, more striking, examples of the anniversary hero's powers of observation – but Zakhoder preferred to recall the participation of Bertels in the 800 years celebration of Nizami. It is easy to notice that the question of Bertels's contribution to the study of Nizami is especially important for Zakhoder. This is understandable: in this area, Bertels has the most indisputable, under any circumstances, academic and political merits. The article in “Pravda” where Nizami was called an Azerbaijani poet, and not a Persian one, as he had been considered before, is among them. 17 Nizami is an Azerbaijani poet; this treatment of him will be now unchangeable in Soviet oriental studies, independently of Bertels's will, but thanks to him, whatever his subsequent mistakes. However, even here not everything was smooth and unruffled. The Nizami studies, while one of the most successful and fruitful directions of E. E. Bertels's research, were also the most politicized.

            On April 3, 1939, “Pravda” published the material: “On the results of the XVIII Congress of the VKP(b). Report of Comrade M. Bazhan to the meeting of intelligentsia of the city of Kiev, April 2 1939.” There, the Ukrainian poet Mikola Bazhan told about the meeting of I. V. Stalin with the writers Konstantin Fedin and Pyotr Pavlenko. “Comrade Stalin spoke of the Azerbaijani poet Nizami, quoted his work, to demolish, with the words of the poet, the unfounded claim that this poet must, allegedly, be given to the Iranian literature just because most of his poems he wrote in the Iranian language. Nizami asserted himself in his poems that he is forced to have recourse to the Iranian language because he is not permitted to address his people in his native language. Comrade Stalin quoted just this piece, embracing with a sweep of his genius all the outstanding achievements created by the history of humanity”

            On April 10, 1939, a meeting of Baku intelligentsia voted a verse address to I. V. Stalin 18. It was published by “Pravda” on April 16, 1939. It included the words: “The aliens had held our Nizami, having appropriated the singer, /But the nests that the singer has built in grateful hearts, are strong;/ You gave back his verse to us, you have returned his greatness./ With an immortal word about him you have lighted up the world's pages. By 1947, the point of view that it was Stalin who first “returned” Nizami to Azerbaijan was dominant, at any rate, among Azerbaijani scholars. The participants of the celebratory meeting in Baku honoring Nizami's anniversary, adopted with great enthusiasm, as Bertels wrote, the text of greetings to Stalin containing the same lines about Nizami. Thus, the priority of Stalin in ascribing Nizami to the literature of Azerbaijan seemed to be recognized by Bertels himself. And the criticism by himself of his own mistakes, as it was d  one in 1949 after the speech of  E. M. Zhukov, gave a formal ground to reproach Bertels (as V. I. Avdiev in fact  did) for an attempt to revise an already established view of Nizami Ganjavi as an Azerbaijani poet, a view shared by I. V. Stalin.

            V.I. Avdiev also said this about Bertels: “Having admitted that his theoretical mistakes are due to the heavy burden of bourgeois science's old traditions, Bertels, undoubtedly, has made a significant step forward which gives him an opportunity to start on the way towards rectifying these mistakes, which is possible only by effectively mastering the basics of dialectic and historical materialism.”20 In conditions when any pronouncement by Stalin was declared by many to be a contribution of genius, both into dialectical and historical materialism, it would have been obviously profitable for E. E. Bertels's reputation to play in this respect on the coincidence of his and Stalin's views on Nizami. But neither Bertels, nor Zakhoder do this... As we see there are no mentions of Stalin in Zakhoder's speech – on the contrary, he, quite rightly, emphasizes that Bertels called Nizami an Azerbaijani poet before anyone else.

            The speech of B. N. Zakhoder became the basis of the first, in two years, positive publications about E. E. Bertels, though in one of them it was said anyway that he, “having once ascribed Nizami to the number of Persian poets, succeeded in overcoming this mistake, which had been uncritically borrowed from bourgeois orientalism.” 21 Obviously, in publications, too, it would have been very profitable for Bertels to refer to I. V. Stalin's point of view, but here, too, it was not done.

            This is an additional proof that those who did not want, to refer necessarily to Stalin, in or out of context, in academic statements or publications, - did not do it.

            The knowledge of all the above allows to conjecture the reason why it was Zakhoder who became the main speaker at E. E. Bertels's anniversary in December 1950. 22 After all, something of the same kind could have been said by some of the anniversary hero's colleagues – literary historians. Many could have found sincere, kind words about him, could have recalled E. E. Bertels's services to knowledge. But to Zakhoder it was also an opportunity to cancel, in some measure, his moral debt, to say about Bertels what he had not said before, in  conditions that were, of course, more difficult. Such a version is not at all excluded – but if so, has Zakhoder succeeded in compensating for what was omitted before?

 

 

Notes

 

      1.  The archive fund of the Moscow group of IOS AS

      2.   Soviet oriental studies, volume V, Moscow-Leningrad, p. 199-228.

3.      Ibid. p. 200

4.      For a new advance of the Soviet literature. (Debate over the reports of A. Siras, I. Muijniek, and S. Mukanov, and co-reports of K. Simonov, A. Surkov, and B. Gorbatov) // Literaturnaya Gazeta, Dec 12, 1948, #102

5.      K. Simonov, Some issues of the development of the literatures of peoples of the USSR, (On the results of the Plenum of the Union of Soviet Writers). Kultura I Zhizn, Jan. 11 1949, #1.

6.      The archive fund of the Moscow group of IOS AS

7.      Ibid.

8.      Ibid.

9.      Ibid.

10.  Ibid.

11.  Ibid.

12.  Ibid.

13.  Kultura I Zhizn, Jan. 11 1950, #1.

14.  The archive fund of IOS AS

15.  Kultura I Zhizn, Aug. 11 1950, #22.

16.  The archive fund of the Moscow group of IOS AS

17.  E. Bertels. The genius poet of Azerbaijan, Nizami// Pravda, Feb.3,1939, #33.

18.  Samed Vurgun, Rasul Rza, Suleiman Rustam, A letter of Baku intelligentsia to Comrade Stalin.// Literaturnyi Azerbaijan, Baku, 1939, #4, p. 3-12

19.  See: E. E. Bertels, The Nizami anniversary in Azerbaijan // Vestnik AN SSSR, 1947, #12, p. 96.

20.  The archive fund of the Moscow group of IOS AS

21.  Celebration of the Corresponding Member of AS of the USSR Professor E. E. Bertels: in connection with sixty years' birthday and thirty years of scholarly work in oriental studies// Brief notices of IOS AS USSR, Issue 1, Moscow, 1951, p. 63.

22.  On November 17, 1950, by the order # 95 at IOS AS, an anniversary commission has been formed in the Institute, to celebrate sixty years of E. E. Bertels. The commission's chairman was the institute's director S. P. Tolstov, among its members were I. S. Braginsky, B. N. Zakhoder and others.

The introductory remarks at “the celebration meeting in honor of E.E. Bertels were made by   S. P. Tolstov, the address of greetings from IOS AS USSR was read by V. I. Avdiev, and today it may seem somewhat strange in the eyes of some people. E. E. Bertels himself, to judge by some of his remarks, perceived objective criticism, even if very harsh, as a necessary element of scholarly work. All the same, it would be rash to assert anything about the influence of the criticism on his relations with his colleagues in the period under consideration.

 

 

 

Recent Politicization of the Figure of Nizami Ganjavi

 

Thus we saw that during the USSR era, the heritage of Nezami Ganjavi became politicized.  He was attributed to a non-existent identity (Azerbaijani-Turkic) during his own time and it was falsely he claimed that he was forced to write in Persian.  Even Stalin  got involved and E.E. Bertels himself who said that it is impossible to discuss the ethnicity of 12th centuries figure was politically pressured and recognized Stalin’s decision.  Indeed, later on when he wanted to express a differing opinion about the integrity of Persian literature but again was forced to take back his opinion due to political pressure.  Overall, we can see that attribution of Nezami Ganjavi as an “Azerbaijani” (which was defined by the USSR as Medes, Caucasian Albanians or etc.) was political in nature.  However in order to justify this political maneuver, some false arguments (like Nezami was forced to write in an Iranian language) were coined.  These false arguments are dealt with in another section of this article.

 

After the breakup of the USSR, independent Muslim republics emerged and one of them was the Republic of Azerbaijan. Small minority of the opposition and elite in that country (including the People’s Front) strongly identified with pan-Turkism at one hand and also continued upon the policy of weakening cultural ties with Iran by not mentioning or minimizing their fraternal relationship with the wider Iranian world.

 

The USSR historiography legacy has been continued by some of the elite elements in the Republic of Azerbaijan after the fall of the USSR. According to Professor Bert G. Fragner:

 

“In the case of Azerbaijan, there is another irrational assault on sober treatment of history to be witnessed: its denomination. The borders of historical Azerbaijan crossed the Araxes to the north only in the case of the territory of Nakhichevan . Prior to 1918, even Lenkoran and Astara were perceived as belonging not to Azerbaijan proper but to Talysh, an area closely linked to the Caspian territory of Gilan. Since antiquity, Azerbaijan has been considered as the region centered around Tabriz, Ardabil, Maragheh, Orumiyeh and Zanjan in today’s (and also in historical) Iran. The homonym republic consists of a number of political areas traditionally called Arran, Shirvan, Sheki, Ganjeh and so on. They never belonged to historical Azer­baijan, which dates back to post-Achaemenid, Alexandrian ‘Media Atropatene’. Azerbaijan gained extreme importance under (and after) the Mongol Ilkhanids of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when it was regarded as the heartland of Iran.

..

Under Soviet auspices and in accordance with Soviet nationalism, historical Azerbaijan proper was reinterpreted as ‘Southern Azer­baijan’, with demands for liberation and, eventually, for ‘re’-unification with Northern (Soviet) Azerbaijan a breathtaking manipulation. No need to point to concrete Soviet political activities in this direc­tion, as in 1945-46 etc. The really interesting point is that in the independent former Soviet republics this typically Soviet ideological pattern has long outlasted the Soviet Union.

 

(Bert G. Fragner, ‘Soviet Nationalism: An Ideological Legacy to the Independent Republics of Central Asia’ in Van Schendel, Willem(Editor) . Identity Politics in Central Asia and the Muslim World: Nationalism, Ethnicity and Labour in the Twentieth Century. London , GBR: I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited, 2001.)

 

According to Professor Douglass Blum:

“Finally, Azerbaijan presents a somewhat more ambiguous picture. It boasts a well-established official national identity associated with claims of a unique heritage based on an improbable blend of Turkism, Zoroastrianism, moderate Islam, and its historical function as ‘bridge’between Asia and Europe along the Silk Road. At the same time there remain strong local allegiances and ethnic distinctions, including submerged tensions between Azeris, Russians, and also Lezgins and Talysh (besides Armenians), as well as stubborn religious cleavages (roughly two thirds of the Islamic population is Shi’ite one third Sunni). This persistence of parochialism is hardly surprising inasmuch as there has been little historical basis for national identity formation among Azeri elites, who were significantly affected by Russification and are still generally lukewarm in their expressions of pan-Turkism. Perhaps the most powerful source of social cohesion and stale legitimacy is the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, which has at least generated some degree of collective identity as victim of Armenian aggression perhaps a slender reed on which to construct a national identity conducive to developmental state building in the future”.

(Douglass Blum, “Contested National Identities and Weak State Structures In Eurasia”(in Sean Kay, S. Victor Papacosma, James Sperling, Limiting Institutions: The Challenge of Eurasian Security Governance, Manchester University Press, 2003.)

 

Here are examples of some news reports from a Republic of Azerbaijan news site on Nizami Ganjavi. (All accessed in Dec, 2007 and the URL given on the bottom of each picture)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another news article claims:

 

Which translates to(roughly done with google translator):

 

http://www.day.az/news/society/44452.html ( March 22, 2006)

 

Эксклюзивное интервью Day.Az с членом Союза писателей Азербайджана, известным публицистом Эльчином Гасановым. Day.Az exclusive interview with a member of the Writers' Union of Azerbaijan, a famous writer Elchin Hasanov.

 

- Эльчин муаллим, как Вы прокомментируете заявления посла Исламской Республики Иран в Азербайджане Афшара Сулеймани о том, что он против того, чтобы называть Шахрияра азербайджанским поэтом, а Низами Гянджеви и вовсе является иранским поэтом и что он, потому что великий поэт, мол не читал свои стихи на азербайджанском языке, а читал их на фарси, и они позднее были переведены на азербайджанский? - Elchin Mualla how would you comment the statements of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Azerbaijan by ambassador Afshar Suleimaniyeh that he objected to calling Shahriyar and Nizami and states they are Iranian poet.  They say that they did not write their poems in Azeri language and that they were later translated to Persian?


- Начнем, по порядку, с Шахрияра. - For starters, on Shahriyar. Это, безусловно, азербайджанский поэт. He is of course, Azeri poet. Он был иранским азербайджанцем и писал на азербайджанском языке. He was an Iranian Azeri and wrote in the Azeri language. А вот с Низами все несколько проблематичнее. But with aNizami several problems. К примеру, на него претендуют и таджики, которые заявляют, что он писал на таджикском языке. For example, he is claimed by different groups and Tajiks claim that he wrote in the Tajik language.  The same about Iranians and Arabs.  Monuments of Nizami are not only in Azerbaijan but also in Iran, Tajikistan and the Arab world. Да, великий поэт жил в Гяндже. Yes, the great poet lived in Ganja. Но достаточно ли этого для того, чтобы весь мир признал Низами азербайджанцем? But is this to the whole world recognized Nizami Azerbaijanis? На мой взгляд, нет. In my opinion, no.

- А кого, на Ваш взгляд, можно назвать истинно азербайджанским писателем и поэтом? - Who, in your opinion, can be called truly Azerbaijani writers and poets?

- Это – Хагани, Вазех, Ширази, Сабир. - It - Khagani, Vazeh, Shirazi, Sabir. С признанием их азербайджанцами у нас проблем нет. With the recognition of Azerbaijanis, we do not have problems. Но в то же время мы также считаем азербайджанцем и Физули. But at the same time, we also believe in Fizuli. Но это также трудно доказать. But it is also difficult to prove. Ведь, он жил в Сирии, никогда не был в Азербайджане и писал не на азербайджанском, а на арабском языке. After all, he lived in Syria, has never been in Azerbaijan, and also wrote Arabic.

Поймите, я не говорю, что Низами или Физули не являются азербайджанцами, но это еще нужно доказать всему миру. Understand, I am not saying that Nizami, Fizuli are not tAzerbaijanis, but it remains to be proved to the world. А для этого нам нужно для этого, прежде всего, построить правильную линию пропаганды. And for that we need to do this, first of all, to build a proper line of propaganda. Пока она на очень низком уровне. While it is very low.

В этом смысле, нам нужно не стесняться учиться у армян. In this sense, we should not hesitate to learn from the Armenians. Посмотрите, как умело они распустили информацию о том, что Рамиль Сафаров убил спящего армянина. See how well they dissolved the information that Ramil Safarov killed Armenian sleep. На самом деле «спящий армянин» это – миф. In fact, «sleeping Armenian» that - a myth. Но в него успело поверить очень много людей в мире. But he managed to believe so many people in the world. Также и нам нужно работать над тем, чтобы во всем мире поверили в то, что Низами и Физули – азербайджанцы. Also, we need to work to make the world believe that Nizami and Fizuli - Azeris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally here is a report from an Azeri Ambassador in Europe:

 

Thus the above news reports from the Republic of Azerbaijan takes an issue with calling Nizami Ganjavi an Iranian.  Indeed an ethnic Iranian Talysh editor who believes that Nizami Ganjavi and Babak Khorramdin were Talysh (perhaps the merit of the argument being that the old Azari language and Kurdish and Talysh are all of the same root and at that time mutually intelligible NW Iranian languages and the Pahlavi idioms as shown in Nozhat al-Majales are closely related to Talysh language as well) is accused of a grave crime for disagreeing about the background of Nizami Ganjavi (although the article does not make it clear this was the reason or something else that the Talyshi editor was jailed, nevertheless why should an arrest of a person have to do with Nizami Ganjavi who lived 850+ years ago?). The whole situation is easily solvable if some elites in the country also attest to their shared heritage with the wider Iranian world.

 

Yet all scholars agree that Nizami was at least half Iranic ethnically and he wrote all his work in Persian.  He also praised his rulers as rulers of Persia/Iran which means that to him, the land he was living in was the Persia/Iran.  Furthermore, as will be shown, there are clear arguments for 100% Iranian ethnicity and of course explicit testaments to his Persian heritage.

 

Nizami Ganjavi is known by his Persian epic poetry. The Iranian world and Persian speaking world has many great poets and the current government of Iran is a pan-Islamic government and in terms of nation building, it does not put a serious endeavor like former USSR countries, many of whom have been besieged by ethnic war and thus have a high nationalist fervor both amongst their government elite and some of their people. 

 

Thus some elite sectors refuse to recognize that Nizami Ganjavi, who is part of the Iranian civilization, is also part of the Azerbaijani’s heritage due to the fact that they also have Iranian heritage. Instead, some still believe Nizami Ganjavi was a Turk! who was forced to write in Persian or he used Persian since it was a common tool.  We will show both ideas are false and actually not only Nizami wrote in Persian, but he expanded upon Iranian folklore and mythology while nothing is said in his work about Turkic folklore and mythology.  His stories were Persian/Iranian and not just the language he used.  Thus besides ethnic reasons, the use of the cultural language, Nizami Ganjavi was culturally Iranian as well due to the stories he versified (and the ones he optionally chose like Haft Paykar and Khusraw o Shirin is a testament to this).

 

A more prudent approach which will not cause contradiction would be to simply accept the obvious fact that Nizami is part of the Persian culture and historic Iranian civilization, and the Republic of Azerbaijan is also one of the inheritors (alongside with Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran) of this Persian culture.  However, nationalistic scholars in the republic of Azerbaijan do their best to disassociate Nezami Ganjavi from Iranian civilization and to attribute it to newly forged identity (Azerbaijani-Turkic) which did not exist at that time and is mainly a product of USSR and pan-Turkist theories.  The current Iranian government of course does not care too much about this issue since Iran has many historical poets and of course it is a pan-Islamists government rather than a nationalist one.  There are pan-Turkist publications in Iran (like the Turkish-Persian journal Varliq) who also claim Avicenna and Biruni as Turkic scholars. They also obviously claim Nizami Ganjavi (and we will respond to their arguments in the section “Misinterpretations of verses by the USSR”).  In our opinion, 1000 year from now, if civilization survives, Nizami Ganjavi will still be known by his Persian poetry and Iranian cultural heritage since that reflects the character and content of his work.

 

Going back to such nationalistic writers who disregard scholarly convention, the word of Dr. Jafarov (in the above news reports) shows ultra-nationalistic fever is very high with regards to Nizami Ganjavi. Note Dr. Jafarov’s unsound assertion:

“It is a fact Nizami Ganjavi praised Macedonian Alexander, who raised [sic. he meant razed] Iran, while other Persian poets showed Alexander as a bloodthirsty killer. If Nizami Ganjavi had been a Persian poet, he would also have shown Alexander as a bloodthirsty killer instead of praising him. It proves that Nizami is a genius Azerbaijani poet. Nizami’s creative works are in the spirit of Azerbaijan-Turk”

 

What Dr. Jafarov fails to mention is that Nizami Ganjavi says that Alexander followed all of the traditions and customs of the Kiyani kings (Achaemenid kings) with the exception of Zoroastrianism. Without the understanding Persian language and its classical literature (Ferdowsi, Sanai, Qatran, ...) the understanding of the works of Nizami Ganjavi is also impossible. Alexander the Great was also identified with Dhul-Qarnain of the Qur’an and many Persian poets have praised him. He is after all an Islamic figure and Nizami was also a devout Muslim.

 

For example, Sa’adi the Persian poet also praises Alexander:

 

ايشان در حكايت آخر از باب اول از كتاب گلستان خود به صراحت گفته كه اسكندر رومي را گفتند شرق و غرب عالم را به چه گرفتي در حالي كه پادشاهان پيشين را كه مكنت و قدرت بيش از اين بود اينچنين امري مقدر نشد؟
گفتا بعون خداي عزوجل در هر سرزميني كه وارد شدم رعيت آن نيازردم و نام بزرگان آن جز به نيكي ياد نكردم.

 

 

These sorts of statements about Alexander are typical of many Persian poets.   This does not make Sa’adi a Turk just for saying something positive about Alexander.  Neither Sa’adi praising the local Turkic ruler of the area makes him a Turk.

 

And according to the Encyclopedia of Islam (Iskandar-Nama):

In the Shahnama, Firdawsi already makes Iskandar  an exemplary figure, whom the companionship of Aristotle helps to rise still higher, by the path of wisdom and moderation, in the direction of abstinence and contempt for this world. And Firdwasi laid stress on the defeat of Dārā (the Darius of the Greeks) as something desired by “the rotation of the Heavens”.

..

At the time of Niẓami, however, Islam is from then onwards well established in Iran, and it is the prophetic and ecumenical aspect of his destiny that the poet makes evident in his hero. As a learned Iranian poet, Niẓami, who demonstrates his eclecticism in the information he gives (he says, “I have taken from everything just what suited me and I have borrowed from recent histories, Christian, Pahlavi and Jewish ... and of them I have made a whole”), locates the story of his hero principally in Iran.  He makes him the image of the Iranian “knight”, peace-loving and moderate, courteous and always ready for any noble action. Like all Niẓami's heroes, he conquers the passions of the flesh, and devotes his attention to his undertakings and his friendships. These features appear in the account, which follows ancient tradition, of his conduct towards the women of the family of Darius, in his brotherly attitude on the death of that ruler, in his behaviour towards queen Nushaba (the Kaydaf of Firdawsi, the Kandake of the pseudo-Callisthenes) whom he defends against the Russians. (Abel, A.; Ed(s). "Iskandar Nama." Encyclopaedia of Islam. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2007. (2nd edition online version))

 

 

 

The Encyclopedia Iranica also discusses the difference between Perso-Islamic and Perso-Zoroastrian view on Alexander. Persian historians and poets (including Ferdowsi) according to this Professor Hanaway present Alexander as a just king:

 

“Two aspects of the story are important in differentiating the versions of the Alexander romance that descend from the Greek through the Syriac from those influenced by Persian oral tradition. The first is the genealogy of Alexander. In the Pseudo-Callisthenes tale, and the Syriac version, Alexander is the son (by an illicit union) of the Egyptian Pharaoh Nectanebos and Philip of Macedon’s wife Olympias.

In many of the Persian versions, including that of Ferdowsi, Alexander is the son of Darab (Darius II?) and the daughter of Philip of Macedon. The second aspect is the way in which Alexander himself is viewed in the text. In the Persian versions of the story, Alexander is usually identified with Dhu’l-Qarnayn, a prophet mentioned in the Koran 16:84 (see Watt). In the early New Persian commentary on the Koran entitled Tarjoma-ye Tafsir-e Tabari Dul-Qarnayn is mentioned twice in connection with the wall of Gog and Magog (I, p. 196; IV, p. 918). Stories of Alexander/D¨u’l-Qarnayn appear in popular lives of the saints, such as Abu Eshaaq Neyshaburi’Qesas al-Anbiyya (pp. 321-33 and in a chapbook version, Kabul, n. d., pp. 94-101).

Among the historians, Tabari (I, pp. 692-704; tr., IV, pp. 87-95) gives the fullest summary of the tale of Alexander, including the birth story in which Alexander and Dara are half-brothers, the details of which appear in various Persian versions. Neither the historians (Tabari, Masudi, Dinavari, and Hamza Esáfahani) nor Ferdowsi develop the prophetic role of Alexander which the connection with Du’l-Qarnayn suggests, presenting Alexander as a conquering hero and a just king. Nezami Ganjavi develops the prophetic side fully in what is the most extensive surviving version in New Persian”.

(Encyclopedia Iranica, “Eskandar Nama”, William L. Hanaway)

 

We note that in the Shahnameh, Alexander the Great even visits Mecca and in the Shahnameh, he is actually half Iranian. Nizami Ganjavi praises Ferdowsi (who definitely was not a Turk and according to many sources his Shahnameh had a certain anti-Turkish bias) and the Shahnameh had an important role in the Eskandarnama (as well as Haft Paykar and Khusraw o Shirin). Neither Sa’adi nor Ferdowsi were of Azerbaijan-Turk background but they both have praised Alexander who was identified with the Muslim Dhul-Qarnain. We also note that Nizami’s romantic poetry is based on Persian folklore (Haft Paykar, Khusraw o Shirin) and have absolutely nothing to do with Turkic folklore like Dede Qorqod. Finally in the Eskandarnama, Alexander attacks Azarabadegaan (traditional Iranian Azerbaijan) and puts out the fire temples. Yet some of the same elite who deny any Iranian also claim Zoroastrianism is a Turkic religion and Zoroaster was a Turk.

 

As per the nationalist writer Elchin Hassanov.  He is incorrect about Nezami and Shirazi.  By Shirazi, he could possibly mean Sa’adi of Shiraz  (who is popular in the country Azerbaijan) but he is not Azerbaijani nor does anyone know him as Azerbaijani nor has he written anything in Azerbaijani.  Similarly Shahriyar is an Iranian Azeri poet.  He was born of Iranian nationality and spoke Azerbaijani as his native language.  However, it should be mention that the pan-Turkic claim on Nezami Ganjavi is a falsified allegation that his father was Turkic.  While the arguments of pan-Turkists arguments are analyzed in this article and are shown to lack any proof (and are misinterpreted verses seen through highly ethno-nationalistic narrow prisms), we should not that Shahriyar’s full name was Seyyed Muhammad Shahriyar.  Thus if one goes by purely father line, rather than cultural contribution, someone like Shahriyar would be an Arab since his father line (a Seyyed) goes back to Prophet of Islam (PBUH).  Thus if a poet is to be classified by their father line (we will discuss Nezami’s later), then Shahriyar is an Arab poet.  If they are supposed to be by their output, then obviously Shahriyar who wrote 90% of his work in Persian, will be a Persian poet.  However, Shahriyar is classified as an Iranian Azeri poet (which we believe is correct) because of his culture milieu.  He hailed from an Iranian Azeri cultural background.  However at the time of Nezami Ganjavi, the cultural milieu of Arran and Sherwan was Persian as will be shown by works such as Nozhat al-Majales and others.  For example at least 24 Persian poets have been mentioned in the Nozhat al-Majales which is from Nezami’s era and all being from Ganja.

. 

 Also there was no Azerbaijani-Turkic language, culture, identity at that time of Nezami.  Also the comments about “manipulation” and using methods of “Armenians” in order to prove to the world that Nezami was “Azeri” shows that the world does not at this time buy such a claim.  The Azerbaijani republic ambassador also confirms this claim as he clearly states: “Most of Europe considers Nezami a Persian poet”.  In actuality, it is all European scholars outside of USSR, since they recognize that one cannot misplace time and history and assign non-existent identities during the time of Nezami to Nezami. 

 

Of course if Iran’s government does not do anything, and ordinary Iranians remain aloof, and some scholars are paid (we bring such an example later), then obviously falsehood will creep into mainstream Western scholarship.

 

Indeed there was no ethnicity by the name Azerbaijani-Turkic at that time neither was there an Azerbaijani-Turkic culture or language (it came about through proto-Oghuz mixed with Persian and Arabic vocabulary at least a century after Nezami.  All of the work of Nezami is in Persian, his cultural contribution is to the Persian language and his stories are from Persian folklore and culture.  As per his ethnicity, it is agreed that he was at least half Kurdish (an Iranic people/group), and we shall show that the ethnicity of his father was Iranian(which is somewhat irrelevant in the case of Nezami since he was raised by his maternal uncle and he was orphaned early from his father), although this issue by itself does not make difference on his cultural characterization as a Persian poet.  

 

Just like Shahriyar or Nasimi’s father line (both Arabic Seyyed) does not change their cultural characterization as  “Iranian Azeri poet” and “Turkic poet” respectively.  Although with regards to Nasimi, he also has written in Arabic and Persian and thus one should classify him as a “Turkish, Arabic and Persian poet” and we do not know his cultural milieu and native language clearly.  Similarly, the founder of Safavid dynasty, Ismail I is hailed as an “Azerbaijani poet” because he has written in Azerbaijani-Turkic (less of his Persian works has survived).  However if one goes by father line, all major modern Safavid scholars classify his ancestor as Shaykh Safi al-Din Ardabili who was of Kurdish Shafi’i background.  All Safavid chronicles both before 1501 and after 1501 trace the Safavids lineage to Firuz Shah Zarin Kolah and in the oldest extant genealogy, he is called Firuz Shah Zarin Kolah Kurd of Sanjan and he is called Kurdish directly. 

The same issue holds with Pushkin who had Ethiopian father line, but no one challenges his place in Russian literature.  With regards to Nezami, he contributed to the Persian language and used Persian cultural stories and thus is rightfully a Persian poet.  A poet cannot be translated and thus the masterpiece he has created makes it also belong to the particular language he has used.  However irrelevant the issue of his father line may be, we shall also show that all indicators show Nezami’s father line just like his mother line was Iranian.  Thus the above news reports show that politicization of Nezami Ganjavi and robbing him of his Persian cultural heritage is actively being pursued for pan-Turanist/ethno-nationalistic reasons and nation building. 

 

 

A more recent statement from the ministers of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan has a more scientific tone:

 

a country which embraced Islam in its very early days and which remarkably contributed to enriching the Islamic civilization through its illustrious sons of eminent philosophers, scholars, thinkers, historians and poets like Nizami and Khaquani, Bakhmanyar, Masud Ibn Namdar and many others.

 

http://www.oic-oci.org/press/English/2007/04/sg-speech-baku.htm

(Accessed September 2007)

 

We note that Abul Hasan Bahmanyar the son of Marzaban was a Persian Zoroastrian and a student of Avicenna. The name of his uncle, which he devoted one of his works too is: Abu Mansur the son of Bahram the son Khurshid the son of Yazdyar who was also a Zoroastrian.  Masud ibn Namdar, as Vladimir Minorsky has clearly stated, was a Kurd. Indeed Masud ibn Namdar himself affirms he was a Kurd. The Persian poet Khaqani has a Christian Iranian or Georgian or Greek mother and an Iranic father.  His title was the “Persian Hassan”.  Finally, Nizami is the case we study in detail and it is shown that all evidences point to non-Turkic, Iranian father as well as Kurdish mother. Culturally, all that is left from Nizami are his work and he considers himself an inheritor/successor of Ferdowsi. Again it is this author’s opinion that just like ancient Egyptians are connected to modern Egyptians, some of the writers from the Republic of Azerbaijan do not need Turkify Avesta, Zoroastrianism, Bahmanyar and Iranian cultural relics in order to feel a connection with their past.  The Iranian ambassador mentioned in the news should also explain that Turkic speaking Azerbaijanis of Caucasus have Iranian heritage (despite massive efforts by both USSR and pan-Turkists to deny and erase this heritage) and while the language of the area has changed, Nezami is part of the Iranian culture heritage of the region and they should also see this heritage as their own as well and not try to retroactively and anachronistically Turkify it.

 

Nizami’s Mother

Professors Vladimir Minorsky, Jan Rypka, Julia Meysami, Vahid Dastgerdi and other Nezami scholars are unanimous that Nizami’s mother was of a Kurdish (an Iranic speaking group) background.

 

Vladimir Minorsky writes (V. Minorsky, Studies in Caucasian History, Cambridge University Press, 1957. pg 34):

“The author of the collection of documents relating to Arran Mas’ud b. Namdar (c. 1100) claims Kurdish nationality. The mother of the poet Nizami of Ganja was Kurdish (see autobiographical digression in the introduction of Layli wa Majnun). In the 16th century there was a group of 24 septs of Kurds in Qarabagh, see Sharaf-nama, I, 323. Even now the Kurds of the USSR are chiefly grouped south of Ganja. Many place-names composed with Kurd are found on both banks of the Kur”

 

Also Vladimir Minorsky writes (G. H. Darab, Makhzan al-Asrar, 1945 (reviewed by Minorsky, BSOAS., 1948, xii/2, 441-5)):

Whether Nizami was born in Qom or in Ganja is not quite clear. The verse (quoted on p. 14): “I am lost as a pearl in the sea of Ganja, yet I am from the Qohestan of the city of Qom “, does not expressly mean that he was born in Qom. On the other hand, Nizami’s mother was of Kurdish origin, and this might point to Ganja where the Kurdish dynasty of Shaddad ruled down to AH. 468; even now Kurds are found to the south of Ganja.

 

 

Professor Julia Scott Meysami also states the same:

His father, who had migrated to Ganja from Qom in north central Iran, may have been a civil servant; his mother was a daughter of a Kurdish chieftain; having lost both parents early in his life, Nizâmî was brought up by an uncle. He was married three times, and in his poems laments the death of each of his wives, as well as proffering advice to his son Muhammad.”

(Nizami Ganjavi, The Haft Paykar: A Medieval Persian Romance. Translated with introduction and notes by Julia Scott Meysami. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.)

 

We will discuss the Qom theory and his forefather in a later section. For now, this section is concerned with Nizami’s mother.

 

Jan Rypka (Rypka, Jan. ‘Poets and Prose Writers of the Late Saljuq and Mongol Periods’, in The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 5, The Saljuq and Mongol Periods, ed., Published January 1968. pg 578):

“As the scene of the greatest flowering of the panegyrical qasida, southern Caucasia occupies a prominent place in New Persian literary history. Hakim Jamal al-din Abu Muhammad Ilyas b. Yusuf b. Zaki b. Mu’ayyad Nizami a native of Ganja in Azarbaijan, is an unrivalled master of thoughts and words, a poet whose freshness and vigour all the succeeding centuries have been unable to dull. Little is known of his life, the only source being his own works, which in many cases provided no reliable information. We can only deduce that he was born between 535 and 540 (1140-46) and that his background was urban. Modern Azarbaijan is exceedingly proud of its world famous son and insists that he was not just a native of the region, but that he came from its own Turkic stock. At all events his mother was of Iranian origin, the poet himself calling her Ra’isa and describing her as Kurdish.”

 

The late Professor Rypka does not get himself involved in the petty argument about the ethnicity of Nizami. He just mentions what is a well known fact that the poet’s mother was of Kurdish background and of Iranian origin. Professor Rypka also uses the term “Modern Azerbaijan” which is a reference to the surge of popularity of Nizami in the Azerbaijan SSR during the Nezami celebration of the USSR. Another point made by Jan Rypka is about the forefathers of Nizami. These are: Nizami the son of Yusuf son of Zaki son of Mua’yyad.

 

From the above data, we clearly state that the mother of Nizami was a Kurd. This is shown in the following verses of his famous Layli o Majnoon where he alludes to the deceased past ones of his family. He mentions his father Yusuf the son of Zaki the son of Mua’yyad (some have read it as Yusuf the son of Zakkiyeh Mua’yyad), he mentions his Kurdish mother and finally he mentions his maternal uncle Khwaja Umar.

 

This is given as:

 

 

گر مادر من رئیسه کرد

 مادر صفتانه پیش من مرد

 از لابه‌گری کرا کنم یاد

 تا پیش من آردش به فریاد

 غم بیشتر از قیاس خورد است

 گردابه فزون ز قد مرد است

 زان بیشتر است کاس این درد

 کانرا به هزار دم توان خورد

 با این غم و درد بی‌کناره

 داروی فرامشیست چاره

 ساقی پی بار گیم ریش است

 می ده که ره رحیل پیش است

آن می‌که چو شور در سرآرد

از پای هزار سر برآرد

 

 

 

 

Furthermore, scholars know his name as Ilyas due to this verse which is also connected with his mother:

 

مادر که سپند، یار دادم

با درع سپندیار زادم

در خط نظامی ارنهی گام

بینی عدد هزار و یک نام

و الیاس کالف بری زنامش

هم «با»، نود و نه است نامش

زین گونه هزار و یک حصارم

با صد کم یک سلیح دارم

 

The first couplet clearly shows Nizami identifies with Iranian legends and cultural themes. We will delve fully into this later in this article. But, for example, the first two verses we translate as follows:

 

My Mother who aided/protected me with Spand,

Gave birth to me with the armor of Spandyar

 

He means that his mother, who used to burn the incense Spand for him, gave him birth with protected armor of the warrior Spandyar due to this Spand and blessing,.

 

We note that one reason it is impossible to translate and explain Nizami from Persian to any other language is the way he has interwoven words and symbols of Iranian culture.  It is very hard to translate the words Spand and Spandyar.  Also the translation will not have the rhythmic nature of the verse.  Finally words such as Spand and Spandyar are unfamiliar to those who are not familiar with Iranian civilization.  They can be translated to for example Western cultural languages by transforming Spandyar to Achilles the Greek warrior.

 

It is worth explaining what Esfand and Esfandyar are just to demonstrate this subtle but very important point.

 

Esfand is Persian word and it goes back to old Iranian languages like Avesta. In Avesta, the word according to linguists means Pure and Holy. In Iranic cultures, Esfand is a seed that was burned as incense in order to keep the evil eye away. Usually mothers and grandmothers burn this seed in order to cast away the evil eye which according to traditions occurs due to envy and jealousy of others.  This writer himself recalls many times that his Grandmother has burned this incense for this purpose. Esfand according to Professor Omidsalar was well known among the ancient Indo-Iranians. Dioscorides provides in the 1st century C.E. the earliest description of the plant; he further state:

 

“The practice of burning esfand seeds to avert the evil eye is widely attested in early classical Persian literature (e.g., Lazard, Premiers poetes II, p. 12; Shahnama, ed. Khaleghi, I, p.337; Farrokhi, p. 106). This practice may have been influenced by the association of esfand with haoma (q.v.), the sacred beverage of Zoroastrian lore (for argument in favor of such identification see Flattery and Schwartz). The continuity of Persian tradition has brought the ancient sacred plant into Islamic sources.”

(Omidsalar, Mahmoud. “Esfand”in Encyclopedia Iranica http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v8f6/v8f615.html)

 

Esfandyar is a popular hero in Iranian literature and especially in the nationalistic Iranian/Persian epic of Shahnameh. Nizami Ganjavi was well familiar with Ferdowsi and Shahnameh (including the 1000 verses of Daqiqi included by Ferdowsi) and has praised Ferdowsi and has used the Shahnameh as one of his major sources. We shall write more about Ferdowsi/Shahnameh and Nizami’s connection to it in a later section.

 

[“Esfandyar” in Encyclopedia Iranica by Professor Ehsan Yarshater http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/v8f6/v8f616.html]

 

In the Shahnameh, we read about Esfandyar and his battle against Turks (in the Shahnameh, the ancient Iranian tribes of Tur/Turanians were taken in different places to be the same as Turks due to similar geographical designations).  Esfandyar fights on the behalf of Iran against the Turanian (also identified as Turks during the time of the Shahnameh) Arjasp.

 

Here is one comment from Esfandyar from the story of the Shahnameh:

 

بخندید روشن‌دل اسفندیار

بدو گفت کای ترک ناسازگار

ببینی تو فردا که با نره‌شیر

چگونه شوم من به جنگش دلیر

 

Again we read from Esfandyar:

 

سر شاه ترکان از آن دیدگاه

بینداخت باید به پیش سپاه

Again about Esfandyar after his battle with Turks:

 

ز ترکان چینی فراوان نماند

وگر ماند کس نام ایشان نخواند

 

Esfandyar is a major hero in the Shahnameh who saves Iran from the invader Turks (although again it should be stressed that the Turanians mentioned in the Avesta were not Turks but were identified as Turks in the Shahnameh period due to similar geographical location and this is discussed in Appendix C).  Throughout the Panj-Ganj of Nizami, we do not see one instance of heroes from Turkic (whether Oghuz or Qipchaq or Uyghur) mythology. From the evidence so far, Nizami Ganjavi’s praise of Esfandyar who has made some comments against Turks in the Shahnameh is an indication that he was not Turkic or at least he was totally immersed in Iranian culture such that he did not really recognize himself as a Turk.  No one that knows the Shahnameh well and considers himself a Turkic nationalist would be relating himself to Esfandyar.  We shall get back to this issue when we discuss Nizami’s father and culture.

Nizami and his maternal uncle Khwaja Umar

Nizami writes about the passing away of his maternal uncle (khaal in Persian means maternal uncle and is used in Kurdish and this is another hint at Nezami’s background since he uses this family term with regards to his maternal uncle) Khwaja Umar:

گر خواجه عمر که خال من بود

 خالی شدنش وبال من بود

 از تلخ گواری نواله‌ام

درنای گلو شکست ناله‌ام

 می‌ترسم از این کبود زنجیر

 کافغان کنم او شود گلوگیر

 ساقی ز خم شراب خانه

 پیش آرمیی چو نار دانه

آن می که محیط بخش کشتست

همشیره شیره بهشتست

 

It is well known fact that Nizami was orphaned at an early age. According to Jerome Clinton and Kamran Talatoff:

“His father, Yusuf and mother, Rai’sa, died while he was still relatively young, but maternal uncle, Umar, assumed responsibility for him”.

(Talatoff K., Clinton J.W. “The Poetry of Nizami Ganjavi: Knowledge, Love, and Rhetortics”, NY, 2001.)

 

Thus if the above assertion of the authors are correct (Jan Rypka and Julia Meysami also states he was orphaned as an early age and so do other biographers of Nizami), then Nizami Ganjavi was raised by his Kurdish maternal uncle.  The verse about his father also points to the fact that he was orphaned early.  Thus, even assuming the argument that his father was not Kurdish, he did not know his father well and was raised by a Kurdish maternal uncle.  We shall show later that it was the case that Iranians usually married Iranians (like most people at that time), Shafi’ites usually married Shafi’ites (like most people at that time) and thus it is hard to imagine that unless Nezami’s mother was a servant (which she was not given the fact that the maternal uncle takes care of Nezami and some have stated that Nezami’s mother was of an important Kurdish clan due to the name Ra’isa being a title of a high women), his father would also be Iranian.  We will delve into the issue of Nezami’s father later since Nezami does not explicitly pronounce the background of his father as he does with his mother. 

Nizami’s Father

According to Jan Rypka, the background of Nizami Ganjavi was Urban. This would make sense given the fact that Nizami Ganjavi’s writing is a product of sedentary culture rather than one of nomadic culture. We have little information on Nizami Ganjavi’s father and all that is left is given in the following verses:

 

گر شد پدرم به نسبت جد

یوسف پسر زکی مؤید

 

As Jan Rypka pointed out and most scholars concur with him, the father of Nizami Ganjavi was named Yusuf. His grandfather is named Zaki and finally his great grandfather is named Mu’ayyad.

 

This is all the information that Nizami Ganjavi has left for us on his father. Although it is not a whole lot of information, it can still provide us with a few clues.

 

First all the names are Arabic.  This suggests that Nizami Ganjavi’s father line was Muslim for at least three generations before Nizami Ganjavi.  The second pointer is that there is no tribal designation in the name. That is when we consider the names/designations of Seljuqs, Ghaznavids, Ghezelbash Safavid tribes or even Turkic poets like Fizuli (reputedly from the Bayyat tribe for example which was an Oghuz tribe although some authors have mentioned Kurdish (see Kurds in Encyclopedia of Islam 2nd edition)), we see tribal names from the father-side. This corroborates with the evidence that Nizami Ganjavi was urban.  Finally, since Nizami Ganjavi was orphaned early and lost his father, we can perhaps surmise that his father was at least 40 years old when Nizami Ganjavi was born. Thus we may assume that 1140 A.D. (approximately when Nizami Ganjavi was born), 1100 A.D. (when Yusuf was born), 1075 A.D. (when Zaki was born) and finally 1050 A.D. (when Mu’ayyad) was born. Noting the fact that there is an absence of tribal designation with regards to Nizami, we can perhaps assume that Nizami Ganjavi’s father’s family went back to Ganja (assuming it was originally from Ganja which again there is nothing to confirm this) to at least 1050 A.D. On the other hand, some manuscripts of Iqbal Nama (although not all of them) claim that Nizami Ganjavi’s family goes back to the village of Ta, near Tafresh in Qom in Central Iran today.  And other authors have made such a claim based on other verses outside of that one.  We will look at this point later. For now, we can see that there is no evidence from the above verse that Nizami Ganjavi was Turkic. Indeed the Urban setting, the Muslim names, the lack of tribal designation points to non-nomadic cultures of Iranians before the Seljuq domination of Ganja in 1075 A.D.  Before the Seljuq domination of Ganja, the area of Ganja was controlled by the Shaddadid Kurdish dynasty and it was their capital. We will briefly go over this point later in the article.

 

Either way, Nizami Ganjavi has not left us explicit statement about the ethnicity of his father as he has done with his mother.  The point also is not important with regards to Nezami’s culture as he was raised by his Kurdish mother’s family and all of his works are in Persian.  But the evidence points overwhelmingly to Iranic ethnicity and a clear Iranic culture as we will show later. Less likely, but possible is another local Muslim group (possibly Christian converts generations ago or even Arab migrants) origin who were Iranicized. Thus we will have to look at other indirect evidence to see if we can find anything conclusive about Nizami Ganjavi’s father’s background. This is the area where many misinterpretations have taken place during the USSR era. The worst interpretation which is often repeated is that Nizami wanted to write the Layli o Majnoon in Turkish but was forced to write in Persian. This invalid claim will be discussed in its own section.

 

We note that some have even gone further and (as mentioned already) recently falsified the verse in 1980 about his father:

 

پدر بر پدر مر مرا ترک بود
به فرزانگی هر یکی گرگ بود

 

The above verse, like much false information on Nizami Ganjavi, can be easily found in different nationalist websites although it was falsified in 1980.  Its basic rhyme of Gurg/Gorg (Wolf) and Turk/Tork show its invalidity and the lack of knowledge of the nationalist person who forged it.  Some nationalist groups have used this falsified verse in their article to claim that Nizami Ganjavi was of Turkic stock. Supposedly the Grey Wolf or Wolf is seen as wise creature in Turkic mythology. If that is the case, then one should look at actual and authentic verses of Nizami Ganjavi about Wolves which gives a totally opposite picture.

 

Here are some verses about Wolves by Nizami Ganjavi which depict wolves as stupid, vile character and bloodsucking creature! There is nothing about the wisdom (Farzanegi) of the Wolf in his poems.  The wolf is considered a vile, savage and stupid creature whose stupidity makes him inferior to a fox.  The wolf is also compared with evil people.  For example:

 

از آن بر گرگ روبه راست شاهی
که روبه دام بیند گرگ ماهی.
یا:

به وقت زندگی رنجور حالیم

که با گرگان وحشی در جوالیم

 

یا:
پیامت بزرگست و نامت بزرگ
نهفته مکن شیر در چرم گرگ.

یا:
روباه ز گرگ بهره زان برد
کین رای بزرگ دارد آن خرد.
یا:
مردمانی بدند و بد گهرند
یوسفانی ز گرگ و سگ بترند.
یا:
پیامت بزرگست و نامت بزرگ
نهفته مکن شیر در چرم گرگ.

یا:

مردماني بدند و بد گوهرند
يوسفاني ز گرگ و سگ بترند
گرگ را گرگ بند بايد کرد
رقص روباه چند بايد کرد
خاکياني که زاده ز ميند
ددگاني به صورت آدميند

ددگان بر وفا نظر ننهند

حکم را جز تیغ سر ننهند

خوانده باشی ز درس غمزدگان

که سیاوش چه دید از ددگان

یا:

سوم موبد چنان زد داستان
که با گرگي گله راند شبانی
ربايد گوسفندي گرگ خونخوار
در آويزد شبان با او به پيکار
کشد گرگ از يکي سو تا تواند
ز ديگر سو شبان تا وارهاند
چو گرگ افزون بود در چاره سازی
شبان را کرد بايد خرقه بازی

 

Thus it is extremely unfortunate that someone in 1980 falsified such a verse. Unfortunately the above false verse as well as Turkish poems not belonging to Nizami Ganjavi are attributed to Nizami on the Internet and many susceptible readers will get false information if they use “Google” or other tools.

Dynasties before and during the era of Nizami

Pre-Islamic Iranic dynasties of Arran, Sherwan and Azerbaijan

 

Northern Iranian peoples such as the Scythians, Sarmatians, and Alans began to appear in the northern Caucasus in the 1st millennium, B.C.E. The Persians and Medes who settled in Iran could have come in large numbers through the Caucasus.  But the first complete control of the Caucasus by an Iranic dynasty was that of the Achaemenids (although it is possible that the Medes expanded towards some portions of Caucasus but the evidence on the Median Empire is usually slim).  Caucasia was under the control of the Achaemenid dynasty until the conquest of Alexander the Great.  Afterwards, it came under the control of the Iranian Parthian dynasty.  The Parthian influence in Caucasus can be ascertained by the large number of Iranic loan-words in classical Armenian (Grabar). Also the Parthian language is considered by some linguists as a predecessor (or to have greatly influenced) Baluchi, Kurdish, Zazaki and some other Iranic languages.

 

Perhaps the greatest pre-Islamic dynasty that had tremendous influence in the area was the Sassanids. Indeed Nizami Ganjavi wrote three of his five jewels about ancient Persia (the Eskandar-nama being Persianized/Islamicized version of the story of Alexandar). But the two Sassanid works of Nizami Ganjavi, the Haft Paykar and Khusraw o Shirin are considered his most important masterpieces. Both of these works have to do with Sassanid Kings. We shall see in the section on Qatran Tabrizi, that the Sassanids were praised widely by local poets. Also as will be noted, the Shirwanshah dynasty claimed descent from the Sassanids as did later Turkic dynasties that conquered Persia and became Persianate in culture and kingship.

 

Major cities and areas with Iranic names like Darband, Ganja, Sharwan, Beylekan (Paydaaregaan), Piruzpad (Armenian Partaw probably Islamicized to Barda’) testify to the Iranian influence of the area.  During the Sassanid era, large number of Iranians also settled in Caucasia and the Sassanids built walls and forts to protect the Caucasus from northern invaders.


We will here quote several scholars with regards to the Sassanid era.

 

According to Encyclopedia Iranica (Albania):

All along the Caspian coast the Sasanians built powerful defense works, enclosing the space between the mountain and the sea and designed essentially to bar the way to invaders from the north. Firstly, north of the Apsheron peninsula, the two parallel walls of Barmak rise up, 220 meters apart; these are known from the Armenian Geography of Pseudo-Moses (ed. Patkanian, St. Petersburg, 1877, pp. 30-31) by the name of Xorsbēm (cf. Trever, Ocherki, pp. 274ff.). Next are the walls of Šervan (or Šabran), remarkable for their 30 km length

(cf. Pakhomov, “Krupneĭshie pamyatniki sasanidskogo stroitel’stva v Zakavkaz’e,”Problemy istorii material’noĭ kul’tury, 1933/9-10, pp. 41-43 and fig.; Trever, Ocherki, pp. 269-71).

To the north of Samur a third line of defense works could be the wall referred to as Afzūt-Kavad in the Armenian Geography (p. 31) and thus have been built by Kavad (cf. Trever, Ocherki, pp. 271-72). The most celebrated of these fortifications are those of Darband, which shut off the pass of Čor (2-3 km between the mountain and the sea).

The contribution of the Sassanians to the defense of this pass (mentioned in classical sources from the 1st century A.D.) covered a considerable area. Movsēs Kałankatuacʿi (History 2.11, tr. p. 83) speaks of “magnificent walls built at great expense by the kings of Persia.”Yazdegerd II undertook the construction of a mighty wall of unbaked brick mixed with straw which extended from the sea to the slopes of Darband

(cf. A. A. Kudryavtsev, “O datirovke pervykh sasanidskikh ukrepleniĭ v Derbente,”Sovetskaya Arkheologiya, 1979/2, pp. 243ff.).

Kosrow II Anōširavan—and perhaps his father Kavad I before him—set himself to reinforce the existing works with a solid wall of stone provided with iron gates (on Darband, cf. Geiger and Kuhn, Grundr. Ir. Phil. II, pp. 535-36; Barthold, EI1 I, pp. 940-45; Trever, Ocherki, pp. 274ff.). Twenty inscriptions dated 700, are found on the northern wall (cf. Pakhomov in Izvestiya obshchestva obsledovaniya i izucheniya Azerbaĭdzhana 8/5, 1929, pp. 3-22; H. S. Nyberg, ibid., pp. 23ff.; Trever, Ocherki, pp. 346-53). If this date is related to the Seleucid era, it should correspond to A.D. 386 (G. Gropp, “Die Derbent-Inschriften und das Adur Gušnasp,”Monumentum H. S. Nyberg I, Acta Iranica 4, Tehran and Liège, 1975, pp. 317ff.); but there are other, later datings (Trever, Ocherki, pp. 350ff.; Gropp, “Derbent-Inschriften,”p. 317, n. 4; V. G. Lukonin in Kudryavtsev, “O datirovke,”pp. 256-57).”

(Albania in Encyclopedia Iranica, M.L. Chaumont)

A more detailed article on the influence of Parthians and Sassanids is beyond the scope of this article. The reader is referred to Lang, David M. (1983), “Iran, Armenia and Georgia”, in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3.1, London: Cambridge UP, pp. 505-537 for a short survey.

Also available here:

Iran, Armenia and Georgia

Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3, David M. Lang

Not only were Iranian settlements established during the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid era (and most of the Armenian dynasties had Iranian ancestry), but in the words of Professor Lang, cultural influences of Iran were also profound:

In other cultural spheres also, there was much mutual enrichment arising from contacts between Iran and the Caucasian nations during the Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian eras. One has only to think of the perpetuation of the ancient Iranian gosdn or minstrel in the Armenian gusans (Georgian, mgosani), who have continued to delight popular audiences right up to modern times, composing both music and poetic text as they went along. As early as the 5th century, the Armenian Catholicos St John (Hovhannes) Mandakuni composed a treatise, “On the Theatre and the Gusans”, a copy of which may be seen in the Matenadaran or National Manuscript Library in Erevan. Political re­lations between Iran and her Caucasian neighbours may not always have been cordial, but there is no doubt of the depth and extent of reciprocal influences in many spheres of art, literature and religion, as well as in social and political organization.”

It should be noted that occasional Iranic and Altaic nomads including the Khazars penetrated the Caucasus, but this does not equate to settlement in the area by the nomads.  Much like for example the Bulgars had penetrated Thrace,Greece or etc.  For example the Viking Rus penetrated in Barda’and Shirwan around 1000 years ago, but they did not have permanent settlements.

Post-Islamic period, the Iranian Intermezzo before the Seljuqids

In this section we list some of the Iranian dynasties of the era when Nizami’s great grandfather Mua’yyad lived. We also mention the dynasties who patronized Khurasani (Dari-Persian) poetry including Shaddadids, Rawwadids and Shirwanshahs. Iranian dynasties predominated in what is known as the “Iranian Intermezzo”, a period after the Arab conquest which ended with Seljuq conquest. The study of these Iranian and Iranicized dynasties is important since they promoted Khurasani Persian (Dari-Persian) poets and were patrons of Iranian culture.

Vladimir Minorsky in one of his seminal works “Studies of Caucasian History” writes:

THE IRANIAN INTERMEZZO

 

It is still insufficiently realised that the so-called Persian Renaissance in Khorasan had a momentous sequel in Central and Western Persia and in Armenia. By the beginning of the 10th century a great Iranian movement came from the Caspian provinces. At the head of the hosts of Gilan and Daylam, a new set of rulers ousted the Arabs from their last positions held in Iran, and round this new power a fringe of other small principalities was created in the farther west of the Iranian territories.

Even when the Arabs adopted the system of indirect control of Armenia through the agency of the Bagratid princes (A.D. 806-1045) to the east of this autonomous area they retained the system of direct rule in Azarbayjan and Arran. To some extent this policy was dictated by the great rebellion of Babak (201-23/816-37) in the eastern part of Azarbayjan. Babak was captured and executed but there remained a number of important problems, political, social and national, as between the Arab conquerors and the local populations, such as the Armenians.

The grip of the Abbasids was gradually weakening as shown by the centrifugal developments in the family of the last energetic rulers appointed from Baghdad, the Sajids.1 Muhammad b. Devdad (276-88/889-91) and especially Yusuf b. Devdad (appointed in 296/908) were powerful rulers and a formidable check on Armenia. However, soon after 299/911 Yusuf showed signs of disobedience. He revolted openly in 305/917. In June 919 he was captured by the Caliphs troops and for three years remained in disgrace. He was re-instated in 310/923 but this time (down to 313/925) his attention was absorbed by affairs in Central Persia (Rayy, Hamadan). In 314/926-7 he received an assignment against the Qarmatians and on 7 December 927 lost his life fighting these dissenters. Practically the beginning of a new era in Azarbayjan can be dated from Yusuf’s disgrace. The stage vacated by the Arabs was occupied by local Iranian elements, the Daylamites and the Kurds.

The rise of the DAYLAMITE Highlanders, inhabitants of the small and poor area above Gilan, reminds one of the expansion of the Northmen in Europe. In point of fact the Daylamites had an old dynasty of kings (“the family of JUSTAN”) who ruled on the Shahrud, i.e., on the river which flows from the East and joins the Safid-rud near Manjil. The MUSAFIRIDS, or Kangarids, whose centre was Tarom were linked by marriage ties with the Justanids but were a family apart. It must not be forgotten that the more important Daylamite princes, the BUYIDS were upstarts who, with a crowd of other adventurers from Gilan and Daylam, appeared on the stage towards 308/ 920.2 By 323/935 the sons of the Daylamite Buya were masters of Isfahan and Rayy. On 17 January 946 Baghdad was theirs, and for a century the orthodox caliphs became puppets in the hands of these heterodox usurpers.

The rise of the Buyids did not directly affect the northwestern corner of Iran. Apart from a few expeditions into eastern Azarbayjan, the Buyids did not interfere with the affairs of this region. But the impulse given by them resulted in the rise of a number of local Iranian dynasties, partly Daylamite and partly Kurdish, both in Azarbayjan and in the adjoining regions of Transcaucasia and Armenia.

Thanks to the publication of Miskawayh’s excellent Tajarib al-Umam we now know much better the events in the lands between the Buyids’territories and Armenia, i.e., in the area under our consideration.

The original sedentary population of Azarbayjan consisted of a mass of peasants and at the time of the Arab conquest was comprised under the semi-contemptuous term of uluj (“non-Arabs”)—somewhat similar to the raya (*ri’aya) of the Ottoman Empire. The only arms of this peaceful rustic population were slings, see Tabari, III, 1379-89. They spoke a number of dialects (Adhari, Talishi) of which even now there remain some islets surviving amidst the Turkish speaking population.

It was this basic population on which Babak leaned in his revolt against the caliphate. After the collapse of the Arabs and their Turkish generals, the same population came under the sway of the warlike Iranian clans and families. Despite their languages belonging to the common Iranian stock, the new masters, DAYLAMITES and KURDS, differed among themselves to a considerable extent. The Daylamites belonged to a particular blend of Caspian tribes, spoke a Caspian dialect, were attached to the Shia, were recognisable by their hirsute appearance and fought on foot, their arms being javelins (zhupiri) and huge shields. The basic haunts of the Kurds lay to the south of Armenia. They spoke a more isolated Iranian language, they professed the Sunna (or the Kharijite doctrine) and they were horsemen. At a very early date the Kurds penetrated into Western Azarbayjan and even crossed the Araxes (see below, p. 123). There seems to have been a feeling that the Kurds, more permanently established in Azarbayjan, protected it against the later invaders from the Caspian provinces.

After the fall of the Sajids their former general DAYSAM ibn IBRAHIM struggled for supremacy in Azarbayjan during some eighteen years (327-45/938-56) with interruptions. He was a Kharijite born of an Arab father and a Kurdish mother, and his fighting force consisted chiefly of Kurds.

Daysam’s first opponent was LASHKARI b. MARDI, a native of Gilan supported by his countryman and former master, the Ziyarid Vushmagir (“the Quail-catcher”). His conquest of Azarbayjan in 326/937 was a short-lived episode (LA., VIII, 261). Much more important was the expansion of the MUSAFIRIDS. As already mentioned, this Daylamite house, whose home was in Tarom, south of Ardabil, was independent both of the Justanids and of the Buyids; its main operational axis was in the northerly and westerly directions, Under Marzuban b. Muhammad b. Musafir, surnamed Sallar (330-46/941-57) the Musafirids expanded not only over the whole of Azarbayjan and up the Araxes valley, but even into the eastern part of Transcaucasia (Arran, Sharvan) and up to the Caucasian range. Both the Armenian royal houses, the Bagratids and the Artsruni were their tributaries.

When after Marzuban’s death (346/957) quarrels arose among his successors, the dominions of the Musafirids shrunk to the area near their original home in Tarom, while new masters appeared in Western Azarbayjan, namely the family of RAWWAD. Its eponym, Rawwad, was an Arab of the Azd tribe first mentioned towards 200/815 as a semi-independent ruler of Tabriz. After nearly two centuries of new occupations and invasions, we hear again of the masters of Tabriz and Maragha bearing Iranian names (Vahsudan, Mamlan, Ahmadil) but considered as descendants of a Rawwad. I have little doubt that these new rulers were scions of the same old family although this time their family name, al-Rawwadi, is sometimes followed by a further qualification al-Kurdi. Kasravi thought it preferable to distinguish between the old Arab Rawwadi and the later Iranian Rawwadi, and occasionally I make use of this suggestion. It would be only too natural for the Arabs stranded in Azarbayjan to have intermarried with local elements so that the term al-Rawwadi al-Azdi lost all practical meaning and had to be replaced by al-Rawwddi al-Kurdi.

There are numerous examples of similar denationalisation among the chiefs of Kurdish tribes. Between the two spells of Rawwadi domination in Tabriz lies a period (struggles with Babak, Sajid rule) when we hear nothing of the family’s presence in that fief. Then suddenly in the list of Marzuban’s tributaries (A.D. 955) we find an Abul-Hayja b. Rawwad as lord of Ahar and Varzuqan. In this case “Rawwad”is not necessarily the father’s name, but more probably only the designation of the family. The two points mentioned by I. Hauqal lie north-east of Tabriz. The identity of the earlier and later Rawwadis appears also from the fact that, according to Ya’qubi’s History, p. 446-7, Yazid al-Muhallabi, the governor of Azarbayjan on behalf of Abu-Jaafar (754-75) allotted to Rawwad b. al-Muthanna al-Azdi a fief stretching from Tabriz down to al-Badhdh (later Babak’s stronghold). The possessions of the later Rawwadis (Tabriz-Ahar) lay precisely along this line.

Very unfortunately, the History of Azarbayjan, written by one of the family, Abul-Hayja al-Rawwadi is now lost. It would have been useful to fill the gap between 369/979, the year in which Miskawayh ends, and 420/1029, when Ibn al-Athir takes up the thread of events in Azarbayjan.

While the Rawwadis were controlling Azarbayjan, another Kurdish dynasty issued from a SHADDAD sprang up in the part of Marzuban’s dominions which lay to the north of the Araxes. We have spoken of the Shaddadids in great detail and at this place we need only stress for memory the fact of their domination in Dvin and their close association with the Ayyubids. We shall have further occasion to explain how the roots of Saladin’s family go back to the Iranian intermezzo.

Similarly in another seminal work titledA History of Sharvan and Darband in the 10th-11th Centuries”, Minorsky provides a description of the Iranian dynasties that controlled the area of the Ganja before the Seljuqids. Furthermore, Minorsky describes various Iranian tribes including Kurds and Daylamites who controlled the region after the Arab conquest of the region.

The Albanians

Our oldest information on Eastern Transcaucasia is based on the reports of the writers who accompanied Pompey on his expedition in 66 B.C. In Greek and Latin, the alluvial plain of the lower Kur and Araxes extending between Iveria (Georgia) and the Caspian sea was called Albania. The Armenian equivalent of this name is Alvank* or Ran, in Syriac Arran (pseudo-Zacharia Rhetor, XII, ch. 7)—from which the Islamic sources derived their al-Ran, or Arran.

According to Strabo, XI, 4, I-8, the soil of Albania was fertile and produced every kind of fruit, but the Albanians were inclined to the shepherd’s life and hunting. The inhabitants were unusually handsome and tall, frank in their dealings and not mercenary. They could equip 60,000 infantrymen and 22,000 horsemen. The Albanians had twenty-six languages and formed several federations under their kings but “now one king rules all the tribes”. The western neighbours of the Albanians were the Iberians (Iberia being the ancient name of Georgia) and the Armenians. Caspia (probably the region near Baylaqan) also belonged to Albania.

According to Ptolemy, V, 11, Albania comprised not only the above-mentioned territories of Transcaucasia but extended north-east to comprise the whole of the region now called Daghestan along the Caspian coast.

One must bear in mind the distinction between the areas occupied by the tribes of Albanian origin and the territories actually controlled by the Albanian kings. The Armenians considerably curtailed the Albanian territories to the south of the Kur and Armenicised them. Only after the division of Armenia between Greece and Persia in 387 did the provinces of Uti and Artsakh (lying south of the Kur) fall again to the lot of the Albanian ruler. The earlier capital of Albania seems to have lain north of this river, whereas the later capital Perozapat (Partav, Barda’a) was built by the Albanian Vach’e only under the Sasanian king Peroz (457-84).

In the words of Marquart, Eranshahr, 117, Albania was essentially a non-Aryan country (“eminent unarisches Land”). In the fifth century A.D. one of the languages of Albania (that of the Gargars near Partav) was reduced to writing by the Armenian clergy who had converted the Albanians to Christianity in its Armenian form. According to Moses of Khoren, III, ch. 54, this Albanian language was “guttural, rude, barbaric and generally uncouth”. The forgotten alphabet, the table of which was found by the Georgian Prof. Shanidze in 1938, consisted of fifty-two characters reflecting the wealth of Albanian phonetics. The Arab geographers of the tenth century still refer to the “Raman”language as spoken in Barda’a. At present, the language of the Udi, surviving in two villages of Shakki, is considered as the last offshoot of Albanian. Living as they did on open plains, the Albanians were accessible to the penetration of their neighbors and, at an early date, lived in a state of dependence on the Persian Empire and the Armenians. In 359 the Albanian king Urnayr took part in the siege of Amid by the Sasanian Shapur II. In 461 the rebel king Vach’e lost his throne and the country was apparently taken over by the direct Persian administration. Even under the Sasanians Sharvan, Layzan and other principalities of the northern bank of the Kur were completely separated from Arran. Towards the end of the sixth century a new dynasty, issued from a Mihran sprang up in Arran and was soon converted to Christianity.

Though the names of the kings are recorded in the local history of Moses Kalankatvats’i, III, ch. 19 and 22, the facts about them are fragmentary and confused. We must await the publication of the new translation by C. Dowsett. Albania suffered particularly from the invasions from Northern Caucasus, first of the “Huns”and then of the Khazars (see below p. 105).

Arran surrendered by capitulation to Salman b. Rabra al-Bahili in the days of ‘Othman, see Baladhuri, 203, but the presence of the Arab amirs did not do away with the feudal rights of the local princes. The fact that the Mihranid Varaz-Trdat, who died in A.D. 705, paid yearly tribute simultaneously to the Khazars, the Arabs and the Greeks (Moses Kal., III, ch. 12), shows how uncertain the situation remained on the eve of the eighth century. The authority of the “kings”of Arran was restricted to local affairs and was mainly reduced to the southern bank of the Kur. We know, for example, that when Sa’id b. Salim (*Salm) was appointed to Armenia by Harun al-Rashid (ci Ya’qubi, II, 518), the town of Shamakhiya was founded by Shamakh b. Shuja whom Baladhuri, 210, calls “king (malik) of Sharvan”. Consequently Sharvan on the northern bank remained outside the administrative purview of Arran.

The revolt of Babak (210-22/816-37) greatly disorganised the Arab administration, and, under the cover thereof, a significant change took place in Arran. The last Mihranid Varaz-Trdat II was murdered in A.D. 822. His title Eranshahik was picked up by the prince of Shakki Sahl b. Sunbat. In 853 many Armenian and Albanian princes were deported to Mesopotamia and this secured a firmer basis for the domination of the new Islamic dynasties. After the liquidation of the Sajids (circa 317/929) the system of direct, appointments by the caliph collapsed and gave way to the hereditary domination of Muslim houses: the (Hashimids of Darband, Musafirids of Azarbayjan, Yazidids of Sharvan and Shaddadids of Ganja).

b. Iranian penetration

As we have seen, the original population of Arran belonged to a special group unrelated to any of its great neighbours. However, the Persians penetrated into this region at a very early date in connection with the need to defend the northern frontier of the Iranian empire. Possibly already under the Achaemenids some measures were taken to protect the Caucasian passes against the invaders, but the memory of the fortification of the most important of them, Darband (in Armenian Ch’or, in Arabic al-Sul, but usually al-Bab) and of a series of “gates’* (i.e. fortified passes), is traditionally connected with the names of the Sasanian kings Kavat (in Arabic: Qubadh b. Firuz, A.D. 488-531) and his famous son Khusrau (Chosroes, Kisra) Anushirvan (A.D. 531-79). A brief account of these works will be found on p. 86. Apart from such feats of military engineering, the Sasanians strove to reinforce their northern frontier by organising vassal principalities of local tribes and by settling in its neighbourhood large numbers of their subjects, chiefly from the Caspian provinces. The titles Tabarsaran-shah, Khursan-shah, Vardan-shah, “the Lord of the Throne”(sarir), etc., found in Muslim historians (cf. Baladhuri, 207), refer to the first class of indigenous vassals, though even in this case some tribal names may have in view not the aboriginal inhabitants but the aristocracy of outsiders superimposed upon them. It is curious that the grandfather of Mardavij (the founder of the Ziyarid dynasty and a native of Gilan) bore the name (title?) of Vardan-shah, which points to the existence of a Vardan tribe or family.

The presence of Iranian settlers in Transcaucasia, and especially in the proximity of the passes, must have played an important role in absorbing and pushing back the aboriginal inhabitants. Such names as Sharvan, Layzan, Baylaqan, etc., suggest that the Iranian immigration proceeded chiefly from Gilan and other regions on the southern coast of the Caspian. In fact even in Roman times the presence of Daylamite mercenaries is attested as far as Pegamum in Asia Minor, and in the tenth century A.D. Daylam (i.e. the hilly part of Gilan, lacking fertility) became the prodigious reservoir of man-power from which the greater part of Persia and a considerable part of Mesopotamia, including Baghdad, were conquered.

The most obvious of the Gilanian names in the region interesting us is Layzan, now Lahlj, which is definitely connected with the homonymous Lahijan in Gilan, see Hudud al’Alam, p. 407.1 Similarly Baylaqan (probably *Bel-akan) is to be linked up with Baylaman in Gilan (Bel-man “home of the Bel-s”), see Muqaddasi, 372-3, etc. Sharvan itself (“place of the Shar-s”, Gurji-van, Kurdi-van in the same neighbourhood) must belong to the same series. Ibn Khurdadhbih, 118, and Ibn al-Faqih, 303, refer to a town in the district of Ruyan (between Gilan and Tabaristan, see E.I) called al-Shirriz, which may have been the metropolis of the contingent transplanted to Sharvan. According to Tabari III, 1014, Lariz and Shirriz, which his grandfather conquered, belonged to Daylam.

c. Christian elements and influences

Of great importance in the life of the area under our consideration were the Armenians who after 190 B.C. incorporated the territory of Siunik’(also called Sisakan) 5 and other districts in the highlands near Lake Sevan, and played a conspicuous part in the affairs of the region lying between the Kur and the Araxes, and even north of the Kur (in Shakki). After A.D. 387 these provinces were lost by the Armenians, but we have seen that the conversion of the Albanians to Christianity and the endowing of the Albanians with an alphabet were the work of the Armenians. Armenian settlers and cultural elements contributed to the further absorption of the Albanian nation. The Albanian and Armenian nobility freely intermarried, with the result that there appeared a mixed class of Albano-Armenian aristocracy. The later Armenian kingdoms of Ani and Vaspurakan had little influence in Eastern Transcaucasia1 but the petty Armenian rulers of Siunik* and Artsakh (south of Barda’a) played a considerable role in the affairs of Albania.

The other Christian neighbours of Albania, the Georgians, had to a large extent succeeded in preserving their statehood, but their attempts at expansion were noticeable chiefly along the northerly line Kakhetia-Shakki. This latter territory (Shakki), situated to the north of the Kur, had a dynasty of its own, which in the ninth century played some role in the affairs of Arran, see below, p. 83.

The Georgians professed Byzantine Christianity and consequently were opposed to the Armeno-Albanian Monophysitism. Attempts to introduce the Greek (Chalcedonian) creed in Albania met with opposition. When the wife of Varaz-Trdat (d. in 715), with the help of the bishop of Gardaman, took steps in that direction, the Monophysite clergy rose against them and even invoked the help of the caliph *Abd al-Malik (d. in 86/705).2 On the other hand, politically the Greek Empire had much to attract the Albanians, hard pressed as they were by their non-Christian neighbours. Though at the time of the arrival of Emperor Heraclios in 624 the Albanian prince did not join him, for fear of the Persians (cf. Moses Kalan., II, ch. 11), local historians on several occasions record - the close relations of the Albanians with the Byzantine empire to which they even paid tribute.

d. Northern invaders

The question of the ancient invasions into Eastern Transcaucasia from the North cannot be adequately treated in this place. We know that the Alans and other Caucasian highlanders were an essential part of the forces at the disposal of the Armenian Arshakid Sanesan who carved out for himself a kingdom north of the Kur in the neighbourhood of the Caspian (in the region later called Masqat) and opposed his brother (or relative) King Khosrov II of Armenia (316-25).

The most important invaders from the northern Caucasus were the Khazars, a people probably belonging to a particular group of Turks, and at all events including a considerable number of other Turkish tribes. During Heraclius’s struggle with Khusrau Parviz of Persia the Khazars acted as the allies of the Byzantine emperor, and in 626 Heraclius met Ziebel (Silzibul?), the nephew of the Khaqan, under the walls of the besieged Tiflis. The Byzantines did not expand their dominions in Transcaucasia which remained at the mercy of the Khazars till the arrival of the Arabs. Baladhuri, 194, who confirms this situation, speaks particularly of Qabala (east of Shakki) as belonging, or being occupied, by the Khazars (wa hiya Khazar). Some peaceful Khazars were brought to Shamkur in 240/854, see Baladhuri, 203. A party of Khazars was settled by Marwan b. Muhammad between the Samur and Shabaran. The devastating Khazar inroads under the caliphs Hisham {circa 112/730) and Harun al-Rashid in 183/799, see Tabari, II/3, 1530 and III, 648, must have also increased the number of Khazars in Transcaucasia.

[We are far from having exhausted the list of northern invasions in Transcaucasia which must have left settlements in various parts of the country. In their rush towards Armenia and Asia Minor the Cimmerians may have left traces of their infiltrations. About the middle of the seventh century B.C. they were followed by the Scythians (Saka), one of whose centres must have been the province EaKaorpty) (Strabo, XI.8.4-5), irregularly called in Arranian Shaka-shen (the first sh may have been influenced by the following -shen, or by the aberrant Armenian pronunciation (Adonts). The most curious perhaps was the arrival in the middle of the seventh century A.D. of a group of Hungarians who became settled west of Ganja near Shamkhor (Shamkur), see below p. 164, n. 6.] [Note Minorsky is talking about the Sabartians or Armenian Sawardiya].

e. The Arabs

The facts concerning the Muslim occupation of Transcaucasia will be dealt with in the commentary on our text and here we can add only a few general remarks.

Islamic geographers use the term al-Ran (*Arran) somewhat conventionally. A detailed definition of its territory is found in Muqaddasi, 374, who describes it as an “island”between the Caspian Sea and the rivers Araxes and Kur, but among its towns mentions both Tiflis and al-Bab, as well as the towns of Sharvan. Ibn-Hauqal, 251, uses the term “the two Arrans”apparently for the northern and the southern banks of the Kur. In practice, during the period which specially interests us (circa A.D. 950-1050), three main territories were clearly distinguished: Arran to the south of the Kur, Sharvan to the north of this river, and al-Bab, i.e. the town of Darband and its dependencies. On the lesser and intermediate areas see below PP. 77. 83.

Partav (of which Arabic Bardhaca, later Barda’a and Barda* is only a popular etymology, “a pack-saddle of an ass”) was occupied in the days of Othman by capitulation. Although the local princes retained their lands, Bardafa, the capital of Arran, became the spearhead and the centre of the Arab administration. Arab geographers praise its site, its extensive gardens and its abundance of various fruits.

Among the titles which the Sasanian Ardashir conferred on local rulers Ibn Khurdadhbih, 17, quotes Shiriyan-shah or Shiran-shah, which is probably a magnified honorific of the Sharvan-shah. The ruler bearing this title submitted to Salman b. Rabi’a in the caliphate of Othman, Baladhuri, 209. The building of the important centre Shamakhiya (Shamakhi) is attributed by the same author to al-Shamakh b. Shuja* (see above p. 13).

The earliest Muslim reference to a native of al-Bab is found under the year 15/636: a certain dihqan of al-Bab called Shahriyar, whose corpulence (“like a camel”) struck the imagination of the Arabs, commanded a detachment of the Sasanian army and was killed in single combat with an Arab at Kutha, near al-Mada’in, see Tabari I, 2421-2. When the Arabs reached al-Bab (in the year. 22/643) its governor on behalf of Yazdajird III was Shahr-Baraz - a relative of his famous namesake who conquered Jerusalem in 614 and for a few months ascended the throne of the Chosroes. This governor submitted to Suraqa b. ‘Amr.

After the conquest, al-Bab became the base of Arab operations against their great north-eastern enemy, the Khazars, who thwarted their plans of expansion into Eastern Europe.2 Many famous Umayyad generals, such as Maslama b. Abd al-Malik and the future caliph Marwan b. Muhammad, won their laurels on the Khazar front, and a considerable number of Arab warriors and settlers were introduced into Eastern Transcaucasia and especially into Darband, just as Khazar prisoners and settlers appeared in Transcaucasia (see above p. 17).

With the advent of the Abbasids, the grip of the caliphs on the Caucasian frontier gradually weakened and our source dates the decay from the time of al-Mutawakkil (232-47/847-61). In 238/852 the expedition of Bugha al-Kabir sent by the caliph liquidated the amir of Tiflis, Ishaq b. Isma’il (of Umayyad parentage), who entertained close relations with his non-Muslim neighbours and whose wife was a daughter of the ruler of al-Sarir.2 After Ishaq’s death, Bugha attacked Ishaq’s allies (the Sanar mountaineers) who inflicted a heavy defeat upon him. However, in the following years (852-5) Bugha dealt severely with the Armenian and Albanian princes, many of whom, with their families, were deported to Mesopotamia. Though, on the whole, his campaigns were tactically successful, the local life was thoroughly disorganised, and when the caliph’s attention was absorbed by the war with the Byzantines, the central government’s hold on Transcaucasia loosened. The foundation (or restoration) of Ganja by the Yazidid Muhammad, in 245/859, was the first symptom of the self-determination of a local governor. A parallel development in al-Bab was the advent to power of the Hashimids in 255/869. Under the Sajids, and especially under Yusuf ibn Abil-Saj (288-315/901-28), an attempt was made to resume the tradition of energetic policy in Armenia and Transcaucasia, but with Yusuf s death the Yazidids and the Hashimids restored their de facto independence.

In the beginning of the tenth century the great movement of Iranian tribes (Daylamites and Kurds) withdrew from the caliph’s control the whole of the western half of Iran. The Daylamite Musafirids who seized Azarbayjan successfully extended their rule into Transcaucasia up to al-Bab but only for a short time. In 360/970 the Kurdish Shaddadids ousted the Musafirids from Arran, and thus Eastern Transcaucasia became divided into three autonomous Muslim principalities:

The Arab Hashimids (of the Sulaym tribe) of al-Bab, who became strongly mixed with local Daghestanian influences and interests;

The Arab Yazidids (of the Shayban tribe) of Sharvan, who gradually became integrated in the local Iranian tradition;

The Kurdish Shaddadids of Arran.

For this period of local awakening, which forms a kind of interlude between the Arab dominion and the Turkish conquest, our History of al-Bab is a source of outstanding importance.

The three dynasties of Shaddadids, Rawwadids and Shirwanshahs deserve a closer examination. All three dynasties where either Iranian or Iranicized and controlled the areas of Azerbaijan, Ganja in Arran and Shirwan before the Seljuq incursion and subsequent gradual Turkification of the region. The Shirwanshah maintained control of Shirwan even after the Seljuq invasion. Sometimes, they were vassal kingdoms and other times they ruled virtually as independent ruler. The duration of this dynasty was the longest or one of the longest in the Islamic World. Also assuming Nizami Ganjavi’s ancestors were from the region of Ganja, then his ancestry through his great grandfather Mu’ayyad goes back to this pre-Seljuqid era.

The Rawwadids who patronized Persian poets such as Qatran Tabrizi were in the 10th century accounted as Kurdish. But in reality, according to many experts (Minorsky, Bosworth), the family was probably of Arabic origin, from the Yemeni tribe of Yazd, but became Iranicized with such Kurdish names “Mamlan” and “Ahmadil” being characteristic Kurdish versions of the familiar Arabic names “Muhammad” and “Ahmad”. The Rawwadids rulers between a period of early fourth century to approximately 951-1071 A.D. when the Seljuqs gained control of Azerbaijan. Their center was Tabriz and a good deal of information about them is actually derived from the Diwan of the Persian poet Qatran Tabrizi. Prior to their submission in 1054 to Seljuq rule, and the subsequent Seljuq control of Azerbaijan in 1071, an important Oghuz Turkmen incursion from the Ghaznavid realm occurred around 1020-1030. The details of this incursion are given in Ibn Athir, the Diwan of Qatran Tabrizi and Ahmad Kasravi’s “Shahryaran Gomnam”. Later in this article,. we shall look at how Qatran Tabrizi viewed this event. But Wahsudan b. Mamlan with the help of Kurdish neighbors and allies was successful in coping with this incursion and were able to get rid of the chiefs of the Ghuzz tribes and driving off the invaders from Azerbaijan and the Caucasus. So in short the Rawwadids lost control of Azerbaijan until Alp Arsalan returned from his Anatolian campaigns and deposed Mamlan II. B. Wahsudan. But one later member of the family is known as Ahmadil of Maragha, and his name was perpetuated in the twelfth by a line of his Turkish Ghulams (servants), called after him the Ahmadilis (historians have called this dynasty the Atabekan-e-Maragha (feudal-lords of Maragha)).

The Shaddadids were another Kurdish dynasty who ruled Arran and eastern Armenia. In particular, they ruled Ganja up to the year 1075 A.D. when the Seljuq commander Sawtigin took control of the area. Qatran Tabrizi was also a court poet of the Shaddadids and in particular has praised the ruler Ali Lashkari among others. The Shaddadids submitted to the Seljuq Toghril Beg when he first appeared in the Transcaucasia region, but in 1075 A.D., Alp Arsalan’s general Sawtigin invaded Arran and forced Fadlun to yield his ancestral territory (including Ganja). Ganja was the main capital of Shaddadids and the Kurdish ancestry of Nizami Ganjavi might possibly be due to the Kurdish settlements in and around Ganja. A line of Shaddadis did survive in Ani, capital of the Armenian Bagratids and ruled from 1072 to 1174.

The Shirwanshahs were a dynasty of mixed Arab and Iranian origin that were thoroughly Persian in culture and language at the time of Nizami Ganjavi.  They claimed Sassanid descendant and are also called Kisranids (meaning related to Kisra=Sassanids).  According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, the title of Shirwanshah might well go back to Sassanid times. The father line of these Shahs goes all the way back to Yazid b. Mazyad al-Shayabani, governor of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Arran, Sharwan and Darband under the Abbasids. Well before the 10th century, these Shahs were profoundly Iranicized and in fact claimed descent from Bahram Gur. They are praised for their Sassanid ancestry by Nizami Ganjavi and Khaqani Shirwani. Nizami Ganjavi devoted his Layli o Majnoon to the Shirwanshah Akhsitan the son of Manuchehr (whose name according to Minorsky could possibly be Ossetic). The Shirwanshahs not only survived the Seljuq invasion, but they also survived the subsequent Khwarazmian, Mongol, and Turkmen invasions and their rule ended around 1607 A.D. during the Safavid era. They are well known for their patronization of Persian culture and language. The introduction of Layli o Majnoon was misinterpreted during the USSR era in order to claim Turkic descent for Nizami Ganjavi. We shall address this issue in a later section. As will be touched upon later, Nizami Ganjavi entrusted his son to the son of Akhsitan.

Overall, the Iranian nomadic incursions (Scythians, Cimmerians...) and the subsequent Medes, Achaemenids, Parthians, Sassanids and the subsequent Musafarids, Shaddadid and Shirwanshahs brought strong Iranicization to the region of Arran(and Shirwan) and many Iranian toponyms for the major cities of the region, as well as fire temples, also attest to this fact. 

Also many local Iranian dynasties like the Mihranid and various Armenian dynasties were of Iranian(Parthian/Middle Persian speaking) origin. The name Ganja, which could date back to the Sassanid era (See “Ganja” in Encyclopedia Iranica by C.E. Bosworth) and other Iranian names (Darband, Piruzpat, Sharwan...) are testament to these settlements. A testament to the Sassanid influence is given by the fact that Nizami Ganjavi chose the two most important work of his (Haft Paykar and Khusraw o Shirin) based on his own free will. Besides Nizami Ganjavi, Khaqani Shirwani and Qatran Tabrizi, as well many other poets from the region have praised the Sassanid dynasty, which shows its lasting influence on the region’s culture, despite its demise 500 year prior to Khaqani and Nezami.  We shall mention this briefly when we discuss Qatran Tabrizi.

Seljuqid Empire and subsequent local Atabak dynasties

 

The rise of the Seljuq Empire had a significant social and political effect in the Islamic world and beyond. We will briefly touch upon the most salient aspects of this empire. For more detailed information, the reader is referred to Encyclopedia of Islam (Saldjukids) and Cambridge history of Iran.

 

According to Professor Ehsan Yarshater (“Iran” in Encyclopedia Iranica):

A Turkic nomadic people called Oghuz (Ghozz in Arabic and Persian sources) began to penetrate into the regions south of Oxus during the early Ghaznavid period. Their settlement in Khorasan led to confrontation with the Ghaznavid Masud, who could not stop their advance. They were led by the brothers Tögrel, Čaghri, and Yinal, the grandsons of Saljuq, whose clan had assumed the leadership of the incomers.

Tögrel, an able general, who proclaimed himself Sultan in 1038, began a systematic conquest of the various provinces of Persia and Transoxiana, wrenching Chorasmia from its Ghaznavid governor and securing the submission of the Ziyrids in Gorgan. The Saljuqids, who had championed the cause of Sunnite Islam, thereby ingratiating themselves with the orthodox Muslims, were able to defeat the Deylamite Kakuyids, capturing Ray, Qazvin, and Hamadan, and bringing down the Kurdish rulers of the Jebal and advancing as far west as Holwan and Kanaqayn. A series of back and forth battles with the Buyids and rulers of Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia ensued; and, although the Saljuqids occasionally suffered reverses, in the end their ambition, tenacity, and ruthlessness secured for them all of Persia and Caucasus. By the time Tögrel triumphantly entered Baghdad on 18 December 1055, he was the master of nearly all of the lands of Sasanian Iran. He had his title of Sultan confirmed by the caliph, and he now became the caliph’s protector, freeing the caliphate from the bond of Shiite Buyids.

After nearly 200 years since the rise of the Saffarids in 861, this was the first time that all of Persia and its dependencies came under a single and powerful rule which did not dissipate and disband after a single generation. Tögrel (1040-63) was followed by his nephew Alp Arslan (q.v.; 1063-73). He was a warrior king. In his lifetime the realm of the Saljuqids was extended from the Jaxartes in the east to the shores of the Black Sea in the west. He captured Kottalan in the upper Oxus valley, conquered Abkhazia, and made Georgia a tributary, and he secured Tokharestan and Čaghanian in the east. In 1069 he crowned his triumphs with his defeat of the eastern Roman emperor, Romanos Diogenes, by sheer bravery and skillful planning; after extracting a huge tribute of 1,500,000 dinars he signed a peace treaty with the emperor for 50 years. This victory ended the influence of Byzantine emperors in Armenia and the rest of Caucasus and Azerbaijan, and spread the fame of the Saljuqid king in the Muslim world.

Alp Arslan was succeeded by his son Malekšah (1073-92). Both were capable rulers who were served by the illustrious vizier Nezam-al-molk (d. 1092). Their rule brought peace and prosperity to a country torn for more than two centuries by the ravages of military claimants of different stripes. Military commands remained in the hands of the Turkish generals, while administration was carried out by Persians, a pattern that continued for many centuries. Under Malekšah the Saljuqid power was honored, through a number of successful campaigns, as far north as Kashgar and Khotan in eastern Central Asia, and as far west as Syria, Anatolia, and even the Yemen, with the caliph in Baghdad subservient to the wishes of the great Saljuqid sultans.

The ascent of the Saljuqids also put an end to a period which Minorsky has called “the Persian intermezzo”(see Minorsky, 1932, p. 21), when Iranian dynasties, consisting mainly of the Saffarids, the Samanids, the Ziyarids, the Buyids, the Kakuyids, and the Bavandids of Tabarestan and Gilan, ruled most of Iran. By all accounts, weary of the miseries and devastations of never-ending conflicts and wars, Persians seemed to have sighed with relief and to have welcomed the stability of the Saljuqid rule, all the more so since the Saljuqids mitigated the effect of their foreignness, quickly adopting the Persian culture and court customs and procedures and leaving the civil administration in the hand of Persian personnel, headed by such capable and learned viziers as ‘Amid-al-Molk Kondori and Nezam-al-Molk.

After Malekšah’s death, however, internal strife began to set in, and the Turkish tribal chiefs’tendencies to claim a share of the power, and the practice of the Saljuqid sultans to appoint the tutors (atabaks) of their children as provincial governors, who often became enamored of their power and independence, tended to create multiple power centers. Several Saljuqid lines gradually developed, including the Saljuqids of Kerman (1048-1188) and the Saljuqids of Rum in Anatolia (1081-1307); the latter survived the great Saljuqs by more than a century and were instrumental in spreading the Persian culture and language in Anatolia prior to the Ottoman conquest of the region.

The establishment of the Turkish Seljuq Empire in Persia and Iraq reversed the political march of Shi’ism and the removal of the Buyyid dynasty reinvigorated the Sunnite World. The Seljuqs were Sunnis of Hanafi rite who replaced the existing powers in Persia including the Ghaznawids and Shi’i Daylamite dynasties of northern and western Persia. C.E. Bosworth brings an interesting praise of the Seljuqs by their Persian historian, Rawandi:

“Saljuqs achieved some prestige in the eyes of the Orthodox by overthrowing Shi’i Buyid rule in Western Iran. Sunni writers even came to give an ideological justification for the Turks’political and military domination of the Middle East. The Iranian historian of the Saljuqs, Rawandi, dedicated his Rahat al-Sudur to one of the Saljuq Sultans of Rum, Ghiyath al-Din Kay Khusraw, and speaks of a hatif, a hidden, supernatural voice, which spoke from the Ka’ba in Mecca to the Imam Abu Hanifa and promised him that as long as the sword remained in the hands of the Turks, his faith (that of the Hanafi law school, which was followed par excellence by Turks) would not perish. Rawandi himself adds the pious doxology, “Praise be to God, He is exalted, that the defenders of Islam are mighty and that the followers of the Hanafi rite are happy and In the lands of the Arabs, Persians, Byzantines and Russians, the sword is in the hand of the Turks, and fear of their sword is firmly implanted in all hearts!”

(C.E. Bosworth, “The rise of Saljuqs”, Cambridge History of Iran).

 

Indeed religious loyalties were for the most part much stronger than ethnic affinities during these centuries and the Seljuqs were welcomed by many Iranian Sunnis.

 

According to the Encyclopedia of Islam:

“The Seljuqs were soon able to overrun Khorasan and then to sweep into the remainder of Persia. We need not assume that the actual numbers of the Turkmens were very large; for the ways of life possible in the steppes meant that there were natural and environmental limitations on the numbers of the nomads. Yuri Bregel has implied, working from the 16,000 Oghuz mentioned by the Ghaznawid historian Bayhaki as present on the battle field of Dandankan (Tarikh-i Masudi , ed. Ghani and Fayyad, Tehran 1324/1945, 619), that we should probably assume, in this instance, a ratio of one fighting man to four other members of the family, yielding some 64,000 Turkmens moving into Khorasan at this time (Turko-Mongol influences in Central Asia, in R.L. Canfield (ed.), Turko-Persia in historical perspective, Cambridge 1991, 58 and n. 10).

...

The sultans never conceived of themselves as despotic rulers over a monolithic empire, rulers in the Perso-Islamic tradition of the power state as it had developed, for instance, under the early Ghaznawids [q.v.]. They had risen to power as the successful military leaders of bands of their fellow-Oghuz tribesmen, and at the outset depended solely on these tribal elements. The position of the Saldjuk sultans was thus fundamentally different from their predecessors in the East, both from the Samanids, with their aristocratic Iranian background but a military dependence on professional, largely slave Turkish, troops, and from the Ghaznawids, themselves of slave origin and dependent on a purely professional, salaried standing army; likewise, their opponents in the West, the Buyids and Fatimids, had come to depend upon professional, multi-ethnic armies. The sultans did not prove to be wholly exempt from the pressures arising out of the ethos of power in the Middle East at this time; they endeavoured to increase their own authority and to some extent to marginalise the Turkmen tribal elements, yet these last remained strong within the empire, and on occasions, powerful enough to aspire, through their favoured candidates for the supreme office of sultan, to a controlling influence in the state.

The threat of economic dislocation to the agricultural prosperity of Persia was alleviated by the deflection of the Turkmens and their herds westwards, against the Christian princes of the Caucasus and Anatolia and against the Fatimites and their allies in Syria, and Alp Arsalan attached such importance to these projects that he fought in Georgia and Armenia personally.

Whilst many of the Turkmen elements percolating into northern Persia all through the Seljuq period passed on towards Anatolia, others became part of the increasing nomadic and transhumant population of Persia and central Arab lands, and this process became accelerated in the time of succeeding invaders, the Khwarizmshahs and Mongols, through the movement of the Turco-Mongol people.

(“Saljuqids”in Encyclopedia of Islam, 2007).

 

According to the Encyclopedia of Islam:

“Culturally, the constituting of the Seljuq Empire marked a further step in the dethronement of Arabic from being the sole lingua franca of educated and polite society in the Middle East. Coming as they did through a Transoxania which was still substantially Iranian and into Persia proper, the Seljuqs with no high-level Turkish cultural or literary heritage of their own – took over that of Persia, so that the Persian language became the administration and culture in their land of Persia and Anatolia. The Persian culture of the Rum Seljuqs was particularly splendid, and it was only gradually that Turkish emerged there as a parallel language in the field of government and adab; the Persian imprint in Ottoman civilization was to remain strong until the 19th century.”

(“Saljuqids”in the Encyclopedia of Islam).

 

 

Rene Grousset states: "It is to be noted that the Seljuks, those Turkomans who became sultans of Persia, did not Turkify Persia-no doubt because they did not wish to do so. On the contrary, it was they who voluntarily became Persians and who, in the manner of the great old Sassanid kings, strove to protect the Iranian populations from the plundering of Ghuzz bands and save Iranian culture from the Turkoman menace"

(Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, (Rutgers University Press, 1991), 161,164)

 

It is noteworthy that the Persian culture of the Seljuqid era was not that of the culture of their Turcoman troops but rather the culture of native population of the lands they conquered as well as the high culture of the court. The Seljuqs relied upon Iranian Viziers including the famous Nizam al-Mulk to run the everyday affairs. They also lacked a high culture of their own and in reality had no alternative except to adopt Persian culture as part of their own culture. The Seljuq were also major patrons of Persian culture. Many of their ministers and viziers were Persian. The most famous of these viziers was Nizam al-Mulk, whose influence was so pervasive that a later historian like Ibn al-Athir calls his thirty years of office as the government of Nizamiyya.

 

Mehmad Fuad Koprulu also speaks about the pre-Islamic and post-Islamic Iranian influence on Turks and the Seljuqs of Rum:

 

“On Pre-Islamic influence, one must mention Soghdians who influenced Eastern Turks greatly. Because of their geographical location, the Turks were in continuous contact with China and Iran from very ancient times. The early Chinese chronicles, which are reliable and comprehensive, show the relationship of the Turks with China fairly clearly. The early relationship of the Turks with Iran, however, only enters the light of history - leaving aside the legends in the Shahname — at the time of the last Sasanid rulers. After the Turks had lived under the influence of these two civilizations for centuries, Iran, which had accepted Islam, gradually brought them into its sphere of influence. Even during the development of the Uighur civilization, which was the {Turkish civilization} most strongly influenced by China, the attraction of the Turks to Iranian civilization, which had proven its worth in art, language, and thought, was virtually unavoidable, especially after it was invigorated with a new religion.

Even before it drew the Turks into its sphere of influence, Iranian civilization had had, in fact, a major effect on Islam. With respect to the concept of govern­ment and the organization of the state, the Abbasids were attached not to the traditions of the Khulafa al-Rashidun {the first four caliphs} but to the mentality of the Sasanid rulers. After Khurasan and Transoxiana passed into the hands of native Iranian — and subsequently highly Iranized Turkish — dynasties with only nominal allegiance to the Abbasids, the former Iranian spirit, which the Islamic onslaught was not able to destroy despite its ruthlessness, again revealed itself. In the fourth/tenth century, Persian language and literature began to grow and develop in an Islamic form. This Perso-Islamic literature was influenced, to a large extent, by the literature of the conquerors. Not only were a great many words brought into the language via the new religion, but new verse forms, a new metrical system, and new stylistic norms were also adopted in great measure from the Arabs.

Indeed, almost nothing remained of the old Iranian syllabic metrical system, the old verse forms, or the old ideas about literature. Still, the Iranians, as heirs of an ancient civilization, were able to express their own personality in their literature despite this enormous Arab influence. They adopted from the ‘arud meters only those that suited their taste. They created or, perhaps, revived the ruba’i form {of verse}. They also introduced novelties in the qasida form {of verse}, which can be considered an old and well known product of Arabic literature, and in the ghazal {lyric “love song”}. Above all, by reanimat­ing {their own} ancient mythology, they launched an “epic cycle”that was completely foreign to Arabic literature.

These developments were on such a scale that the fifth/eleventh century witnessed the formation of a new Persian literature in all its glory.

 

The Turks adopted a great many elements of Islam not directly from the Arabs, but via the Iranians. Islamic civilization came to the Turks by way of Transoxiana from Khurasan, the cultural center of Iran. Indeed, some of the great cities of Transoxiana were spiritually far more Iranian than Turkish. Also, the Iranians were no strangers to the Turks, for they had known each other well before the appearance of Islam.

For all these reasons, it was the Iranians who guided the Turks into the sphere of Islamic civilization. This fact, naturally, was to have a profound influence on the development of Turkish literature over the centuries. Thus, we can assert that by the fifth/eleventh century at least, Turko-Islamic works had begun to be written in Turkistan and that they were subject to Perso-Islamic influence. If Iranian influence had made an impact so quickly and vigorously in an eastern region like Kashghar, which was a center of the old Uighur civilization and had been under continuous and strong Chinese influence, then naturally this influence must have been felt on a much wider scale in regions further to the west and closer to the cities of Khurasan.

But unfortunately, ruinous invasions, wars, and a thousand other things over the centuries have destroyed the products of those early periods and virtually nothing remains in our possession. Let me state clearly here, however, that such Turkish works that imitated Persian forms and were written under the influence of Persian literature in Muslim centers were not widespread among the masses. They were only circulated among the learned who received a Muslim education in the madrasas {these colleges of Islamic law began to spread in the fifth/eleventh century}.

….

{As they emigrated to the west,} the Oghuz Turks who settled in Anatolia came into contact with Arab and Muslim Persian civilization and then, in the new region to which they had come, encountered remnants of ancient and non-Muslim civilizations. In the large and old cities of Anatolia, which were gradually Turkified, the Turks not only encountered earlier Byzantine and Armenian works of art and architecture, but also, as a result of living side by side with Christians, naturally participated in a cultural exchange with them. The nomadic Turks {i.e. Turkmen}, who maintained a tribal existence and clung to the way of life they had led for centuries, remained impervious to all such influences. Those who settled in the large cities, however, unavoidably fell under these alien influences.

At the same time, among the city people, those whose lives and livelihoods were refined and elevated usually had extensive madrasa educations and harbored a profound and genuine infatuation with Arab and Persian learning and literature. Thus, they cultivated a somewhat contemptuous indifference to this Christian civilization, which they regarded as materially and morally inferior to Islamic civilization. As a result, the influence of this non-Muslim civilization on the Turks was chiefly visible, and then only partially, in those arts, such as architecture, in which the external and material elements are more obvious. The main result of this influence was that life in general assumed a more worldly quality.

If we wish to sketch, in broad outline, the civilization created by the Seljuks of Anatolia, we must recognize that the local, i.e. non-Muslim, element was fairly insignificant compared to the Turkish and Arab-Persian elements, and that the Persian element was paramount/The Seljuk rulers, to be sure, who were in contact with not only Muslim Persian civilization, but also with the Arab civiliza­tions in al-Jazira and Syria - indeed, with all Muslim peoples as far as India — also had connections with {various} Byzantine courts. Some of these rulers, like the great ‘Ala’al-Din Kai-Qubad I himself, who married Byzantine princesses and thus strengthened relations with their neighbors to the west, lived for many years in Byzantium and became very familiar with the customs and ceremonial at the Byzantine court. Still, this close contact with the ancient Greco-Roman and Christian traditions only resulted in their adoption of a policy of tolerance toward art, aesthetic life, painting, music, independent thought - in short, toward those things that were frowned upon by the narrow and piously ascetic views {of their subjects}. The contact of the common people with the Greeks and Armenians had basically the same result.

{Before coming to Anatolia,} the Turks had been in contact with many nations and had long shown their ability to synthesize the artistic elements that they had adopted from these nations. When they settled in Anatolia, they encountered peoples with whom they had not yet been in contact and immediately established relations with them as well. Ala al-Din Kai-Qubad I established ties with the Genoese and, especially, the Venetians at the ports of Sinop and Antalya, which belonged to him, and granted them commercial and legal concessions.’’Mean­while, the Mongol invasion, which caused a great number of scholars and artisans to flee from Turkistan, Iran, and Khwarazm and settle within the Empire of the Seljuks of Anatolia, resulted in a reinforcing of Persian influence on the Anatolian Turks. Indeed, despite all claims to the contrary, there is no question that Persian influence was paramount among the Seljuks of Anatolia. This is clearly revealed by the fact that the sultans who ascended the throne after Ghiyath al-Din Kai-Khusraw I assumed titles taken from ancient Persian mythology, like Kai-Khusraw, Kai-Ka us, and Kai-Qubad; and that. Ala’al-Din Kai-Qubad I had some passages from the Shahname inscribed on the walls of Konya and Sivas. When we take into consideration domestic life in the Konya courts and the sincerity of the favor and attachment of the rulers to Persian poets and Persian literature, then this fact {i.e. the importance of Persian influence} is undeniable. With regard to the private lives of the rulers, their amusements, and palace ceremonial, the most definite influence was also that of Iran, mixed with the early Turkish traditions, and not that of Byzantium. (Mehmed Fuad Koprulu , Early Mystics in Turkish Literature, Translated by Gary Leiser and Robert Dankoff , Routledge, 2006, pg 149)

 

According to Hodgson:

“The rise of Persian (the language) had more than purely literary consequence: it served to carry a new overall cultural orientation within Islamdom. Henceforth while Arabic held its own as the primary language of the religious disciplines and even, largely, of natural science and philosophy, Persian became, in an increasingly part of Islamdom, the language of polite culture; it even invaded the realm of scholarship with increasing effects. It was to form the chief model of the rise of still other languages. Gradually a third ‘‘classical’’tongue emerged, Turkish, whose literature was based on Persian tradition.”

(Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, Volume 2: The Expansion of Islam in the Middle Periods (Venture of Islam, Chicago, 1974) page 293.)

E. J. W. Gibb, author of the standard A Literary History of Ottoman Poetry in six volumes, whose name has lived on in an important series of publications of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish texts, the Gibb Memorial Series. Gibb classifies Ottoman poetry between the Old School, from the fourteenth century to about the middle of the nineteenth, during which time Persian influence was dominant; and the Modern School, which came into being as a result of the Western impact. According to him in the introduction (Volume I):

The Turks very early appropriated the entire Persian literary system down to its minute detail, and that in the same unquestioning and wholehearted fashion in which they had already accepted Islam.

The Seljuqs had, in the words of the same author:

Attained a very considerable degree of culture, thanks entirely to Persian tutorage. About the middle of the eleventh century they [that is, the Saljuqs] had overrun Persia, when, as so often happened, the Barbarian conquerors adopted the culture of their civilized subjects. Rapidly the Seljuq Turks pushed their conquest westward, ever carrying with them Persian culture ...

So, when some hundred and fifty years later Sulayman’s son [the leader of the Ottomans] . . . penetrated into Asia Minor, they [the Ottomans] found that although Seljuq Turkish was the everyday speech of the people, Persian was the language of the court, while Persian literature and Persian culture reigned supreme. It is to the Seljuqs, with whom they were thus fused, that the Ottomans, strictly so called, owe their literary education; this therefore was of necessity Persian as the Seljuqs knew no other.

The Turks were not content with learning from the Persians how to express thought; they went to them to learn what to think and in what way to think. In practical matters, in the affairs of everyday life and in the business of government, they preferred their own ideas; but in the sphere of science and literature they went to school with the Persian, intent not merely on acquiring his method, but on entering into his spirit, thinking his thought and feeling his feelings. And in this school they continued so long as there was a master to teach them; for the step thus taken at the outset developed into a practice; it became the rule with the Turkish poets to look ever Persia-ward for guidance and to follow whatever fashion might prevail there. Thus it comes about that for centuries Ottoman poetry continued to reflect as in a glass the several phases through which that of Persia passed....

So the first Ottoman poets, and their successors through many a generation, strove with all their strength to write what is little else than Persian poetry in Turkish words. But such was not consciously their aim; of national feeling in poetry they dreamed not; poetry was to them one and indivisible, the language in which it was written merely an unimportant accident.”

 

C.E. Bosworth mentions:

While the Arabic language retained its primacy in such spheres as law, theology and science, the culture of the Seljuk court and secular literature within the sultanate became largely Persianized; this is seen in the early adoption of Persian epic names by the Seljuq Rulers (Qubad, Kay Khusraw and so on) and in the use of Persian as a literary language (Turkish must have been essentially a vehicle for every days speech at this time). The process of Persianization accelerated in the thirteenth century with the presence in Konya of two of the most distinguished refugees fleeing before the Mongols, Baha al-din Walad and his son Mawlana Jalal al-din Rumi, whose Mathnawi, composed in Konya, constitutes one of the crowning glories of classical Persian literature.

(“Turkish expansion towards the west”, in UNESCO History Of Humanity, Volume IV: From the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century, UNESCO Publishing / Routledge, 2000.).

 

 

The overall political and cultural climate of the Seljuqs is succinctly summarized.

“The entry of the Seljuqs and their nomadic followers began a long process of profound social, economic and ethnic changes to the ‘northern tier’of the Middle East, namely the zone of lands extending from Afghanistan in the east through Persia and Kurdistan to Anatolia in the west; these changes included certain increase in pastoralisation and a definitely increased degree of Turkicisation. Within the Seljuq lands there remained significant number of Turkish nomads, largely unassimilated t settle life and resentful of central control, and especially, of taxation. The problem of integrating such elements into the fabric of state was never solved by the Seljuq sultans; where Sanjar’s reign ended disastrously in an uprising of Oghuz tribesmen whose interest had, they felt, been neglected by the central administration, the Oghuz captured the Sultan, and, on his death soon afterwards, Khorasan slipped definitely from Seljuq control. The last Seljuq sultan in the west, Toghril III, struggled to free himself from control by the Eldiguzid Atabegs, but unwisely provoked a war with the powerful and ambitious Khwarazm Shah Tekish and was killed in 1194. Only in central Anatolia did a Seljuq line, that of the sultans of rum with the capital at Konya, survive for a further century or so.”

(C.E. Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties).

 

Thus the Seljuqs were one of the reasons of the gradual Turkification that was brought upon in the region.  Although the Seljuq elites and Sultan had Persian culture, the Turkomen nomads who were the backbone of their army was not Persianized at that time. 

 

The number of these nomads as shown by the Encyclopedia of Islam was not large and many of the Turkmen followers found new pasture land through the conquest of the former Christian lands of Armenia, Georgia and Anatolia.  Much larger number of nomads appeared during the Mongol era.

Thus the actual number of nomadic Turks that came to the region with the Seljuqs were small and this is clearly seen in the book of Nozhat al-Majales were the everyday Muslim urban culture was Persian/Iranian and there is absolutely no hint of any Turkish culture in the region.  The Turkish dynasties themselves like Seljuqs, Eldiguzids, Ahmadilis became Persianized and we do not see trace of any Turkish culture from their courts as well.  However, after the Khwarzmian empire and the Mongol conquest (the majority of whose elements were Turkic and also their movement pushed opposing Turkic tribes westwards), larger number of Turkic elements were also pushed from Central Asia towards Anatolia, Persia and the Caucasus.  When it comes to the plans, there could have been a significant Turkic element by the end of the Seljuqid era, however these had to compete with the already established Iranian tribal elements.

 

Still the  major urban centers were not affected since the cultural of the Turkmen nomads was not compatible with the urban culture whose major elements were Iranian in Persia and cities like Ganja, Darband and Tabriz.   Thus we see for example during the Ilkhanid era, Tabriz which was a major city had its own Iranian language as recorded in the Safinaye Tabrizi and it is called “Zaban-e-Tabrizi”.  The cultural language was also Persian which was related to the Tabrizi dialect.  In Maragha, we saw that Hamdullah Mustawafi clearly shows that the language was Fahlavi.  In the Caucasus, the Nozhat al-Majales which is from 1250 or so again shows that Iranic culture was prevalent. 

 

The migratory Turkmen tribes should not be confused with more advanced urban Turkic cultures like those of Kashghar or Uighyurs who were influenced by Soghdians. We already brought the example of Tabriz, where historical sources use the term “Zaban-e-Tabrizi” for the Persian dialect that was predominant there, even during the Ilkhanid era. Also according to Diakonov (1994) as mentioned:

“There were slight problems with Nizami - first of all he was not Azeri but Persian (Iranian) poet, and though he lived in presently Azerbaijani city of Ganja, which, like many cities in the region, had Iranian population in Middle Ages”.

 

Thus Nizami’s urban background in this author’s opinion clearly again establishes a non-Turkic father line. For example Nizami Ganjavi explicitly mentions the nomadic lifestyle of Turks:

 

چو ترکان گشته سوی کوچ محتاج

به ترکی داده رختم را به تاراج

(خسرو و شیرین)

 

ترک سمن خیمه به صحرا زده

ماهچه خیمه به صحرا زده

(مخزن الاسرار)

 

Additionally we note there is no tribal designation (Seljuq, Bayat, Oghuz, Bayandur...) in the names of his forefathers. While Persian culture was not the culture of the nomadic Turkmen supporters of the Seljuqs, but it was the main culture of the courts, viziers, sedentary towns of  the empire.  Linguistically this makes sense, since the major ethnic component of Greater Persia including Central Asia and the Caucasia (Nezami addressing his different patrons as Kings of Persia) were Iranian and Iranian ministers had a large say in the Seljuq government. Later in this article, we shall delve into these points in more detail.

 

During the era when Nizami was born, Seljuq power was actually declining and new local dynasties called Atabegs were former who effectively held major power and were under nominal Seljuq control. Atabegs were originally commanders who were trusted as tutors for young Seljuk princes. But later on, they grew powerful enough to become virtually independent of the Seljuq Sultan and were sometimes the driving force in Seljuq politics. Two of these dynasties who actually commissioned Nizami Ganjavi to write two of his most important epics were the rival dynasties of Eldiguzids and Ahmadilis. Later on historians would also refer to them as Atabakan-e-Azerbaijan and Atabakan-e-Maragheh.  Interestingly enough, they allowed Nezami Ganjavi to choose the topic (unlike the quest by Shirwanshahs which wanted the story of Leyli o Majnoon) and Nezami voluntarily chose the Sassanid stories of Khusraw o Shirin and Haft Paykar.

 

The Eldiguzid were an Atabeg (feudal-lord) dynasty of Qipchaq Turkic origin who controlled most Azerbaijan, Arran and the northern Jibal during the second half of the 12th century. At this time, the Seljuq sultanate of Persia and Iraq was in full decay and unable to prevent the expansion of the virtually independent dynasties. Eldiguz was in control of Ganja, which the contemporary Kurdish Muslim historian Ibn Athir (1160-1233) has called “The mother city of Arran”.  During the reign of the Seljuqid ruler Arsalan, the Eldiguizds were the power behind the throne and controlled the great Seljuqid Empire. Their territories stretched from the south as far as Isfahan, in the west to Akhlat and in the north to Sharwan (controlled by the Sharwan) and Georgian dynasties. In their last phase of the Eldiguzids, their power decayed and they were once more local rulers in Azerbaijan and east Transcaucasia, and by 1225, they were incorporated into the Khwarazm Shah Empire.

The historical significance of these Atabegs thus lies in their firm control over most of north-west Persia during the later Seljuq period and also in their role in Transcaucasia as champions of Islam against the resurgent Bagratid Georgian kings”.

(C.E. Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties).

 

 

The Encyclopedia Iranica has an overview of the Eldiguzids under the entry “Atabakan-i Azerbaijan”(a name used by historians to distinguish different Atabek kingdoms based on regions) states:

 

ATĀBAKĀN-E ĀZARBĀYJĀN, an influential family of military slave origin, also called Ildegozids, ruled parts of Arrān and Azerbaijan from about 530/1135-36 to 622/1225; as “Great Atābaks”(atābakān-e azam) of the Saljuq sultans of Persian Iraq (western Iran), they effectively controlled the sultans from 555/1160 to 587/1181; in their third phase they were again local rulers in Arrān and Azerbaijan until the territories which had not already been lost to the Georgians, were seized by Jalāl-al-dīn Khārazmšāh in 622/1225.

 

Literature, learning, and architecture. All of the Ildegozids were patrons of literature and learning, even though the later ones were apparently more drunken than devout. They were patrons of many of the well-known poets of the period and were closely associated with some of them. Mojīr-al-dīn Baylaqānī seems to have been closer to Īldegoz and Mohammad whereas Athīr-al-dīn Akhsīkatī was nearer to Qezel Arslān (Dīvān-e Athīr, introd. Homāyūn Farrokh, pp. 75-77; Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., p. 208). Zahīr-al-dīn Fāryābī is especially associated with Abū Bakr (Dīvān, introd. Bīneš, pp. 86-92). Šaraf-al-dīn Šafarva Esfahānī may have belonged to Mohammad’s entourage (Awfī, Lobāb, p. 615). Other poets connected with the family are: Emādī Šahrīārī (Awfī, p. 724; Shafā, Adabīyāt II, p. 745); Jamāl-al-dīn Mohammad Abd-al-Razzāq Esfahānī (Shafā, II, p. 732); Rokn-al-dīn Davīdār (Shafā, III/1, p. 347); Athīr-al-dīn Awmānī (Shafā, III/1, p. 395); Qewāmī Moarrezī, Yūsof Fożūlī (Dawlatšāh, ed. Browne, p. 117); Jamāl Ašharī (Awfī, p. 406); Jamāl oǰandī (Ebn Esfandīār, II, p. 152). Khāqānī wrote poems in praise of Qezel Arslān (Dīvān, introd. Abbāsī, p. 26) and also wrote a long letter to that atābak (Monšaāt, pp. 148-63). Nezāmī Ganjavī certainly dedicated his Khosrow o Šīrīn to members of the family, first to Mohammad, then to Qezel Arslān, along with Sultan Toghrel, according to Shafā (II, p. 803). As far as Nezāmī’s Eqbāl-nāma is concerned, there is a difference of opinion (Nafīsī, Nezāmī, pp. 115-16; Minorsky, “Caucasica II,”pp. 872-74; Shafā, II, pp. 704-06) as to whether or not it was dedicated to an Ildegozid. It does seem to be true that the only meeting Nezāmī had with any ruler was with Qezel Arslān (Nafīsī, Nezāmī, pp. 86-93). Uzbek’s vizier, Abu’l-Qāsem Hārūn (q.v.) was a well-known patron of learning in Tabrīz.

(Luther, K. “Atabkan-e-Adarbayjan: Saljuq rulers of Azerbaijan”, Encyclopedia Iranica).

 

We should note that the court culture of the Eldiguzids was also Persian and culturally, they were not different than the Persianized Seljuqid elite.  The urban centers and culture was Iranian at the time as shown clearly by books such as Nozhat al-Majales. 

 

We should also note that Nezami Ganjavi was not a court poet and was not attached to any particular dynasty.   Thus Nezami was more like Ferdowsi, who was not a court poet and unlike Khaqani or Onsori who were court poets.  For example, he devotes works to rival dynasties of Ildiguzids including the Shirwanshahs and Ahmadilis.  He also sent his son to the court of the Sherwanshahs and entrusts his son to them.

 

Another dynasty which commissioned one of Nizami Ganjavi’s works (the Haft Paykar) was the Ahmadilis. The Ahmadilis which historians have also called “Atabakan-Maragheh” were rulers of Maragheh and Ru’in Diz (Ruin Duzh=Persian for Brass Fort compare with Esfandyar’s title “Ruyin Tan”(invulnerable body)) in Iranian Azerbaijan. The dynasty ruled early in Maragheh in the 12th century and maintained themselves against the much more powerful neighbors like Eldiguzid Atabegs. Aq Sunqur Ahmadili, the founder of this dynasty, was presumably a freeman of Ahmadil, a Kurdish noble possibly related to the Rawwadids. Ala’al-din Korp Arsalan, who the Haft Paykar was commissioned by (the story itself being chosen by Nizami Ganjavi) is said to have ruled between 1175-1188.

 

The fact that Nizami Ganjavi was commissioned by at least three rival dynasties (Shirwanshah, Eldiguzid and Ahmadilis) is a testament to his fame.  We should note the court culture of all these dynasties(whatever their ethnic origin) was Persian and one cannot claim these dynasties had a non-Iranian  identity.  Since the court itself brought Iranianization of these dynasties as the administrators, officials and poets who gathered there were natives of the region whose urban cultural language was Persian.  Also the Viziers of majority of the Persianized Turkic dynasties who ruled Iran, Caucasus and even sometimes India were of Iranian origin.  At the same time, Nizami Ganjavi was aloof from politics and was not a court poet. This allowed him to remain on friendly terms with rival dynasties that actually attacked each other’s territories. The Encyclopedia of Islam entry on him states:

“Usually, there is more precise biographical information about the Persian court poets, but Nizami was not a court poet; he feared loss of integrity in this role and craved primarily for the freedom of artistic creation. His five masterpieces are known collectively as the Khamsa, Quintet, or the Pandj Gandj, the Five Treasures. The five epic poems represent a total of close to 30,000 couplets and they constitute a breakthrough in Persian literature. Nizami was a master in the genre of the romantic epic.”

(Nizami Ganjavi, “Encyclopedia of Islam”by Chelkowski, P).

 

Regional Iranian culture in Arran/Sherwan and Azerbaijan

Arran/Sherwan and Nezami’s designation of Iran/Persia for his land

 

Overall, a brief survey of all these dynasties (Rawwadids, Shaddadids, Shirwanshah, Seljuqids, Eldiguzids and Ahmadilis) is important. The Rawwadids, Shirwanshah and Shaddadids were some of the early patrons of Persian-Dari poetry in the area and the Shirwanshah ruled the area of Shirwan during the time of Nizami Ganjavi. Taking Tabriz as an example, and also the statement of Diakonov about Ganja, Ganja transitioned from Iranic rule to that of Persianate Turkic dynasties but it did not lose its Iranic character at once and overnight.  The general Muslim culture of Arran and Sherwan during the era of Nezami Ganjavi is reflected perfectly in its totality in the book Nozhat al-Majales.  This book provides the best evidence of the culture of the region today and unless a time-machine is created, it is the best resource available to scholar to assess the urban culture of the population.

 

The Persianate Turkic dynasties although of nomadic origin were nevertheless soon establishing their thrones and ruled in what C.E. Bosworth has called Perso-Islamic manner. Their courtly life was in Persian and they upheld Persian culture and standards in governing their major cities.  This was because the bulk of the Muslim population was Iranian and culturally Persian was the chief language.  This might have alienated them from their Turkomen followers as it was the case for the Seljuqid Sultan Sanjar. Yet many Iranian Sunnis supported the Seljuqids in order to weaken the rise of Shi’ism under the Buyid dynasty. They also supported the Seljuqid rule, since it brought a sense of stability and unity which did not exist prior.

 

Ganja, which was called the mother city of Arran, was the capital of the Shaddadids (assuming Nizami’s great ancestor was from them). We already touched upon Nizami’s Kurdish mother and his Kurdish uncle who raised him. Later on Ganja passed to the Seljuqs and Eldiguzids before the Khwarazmid and Mongol invasion. There is no evidence of the process of Turkification of Ganja at the time of Nizami (as the Oghuz nomads were not urban and the book Nozhat al-Majales shows the culture of everyday urban people was Persian).  Also looking at Tabriz (a city under the Ildiguzids) as an example (which had an Iranic language after Mongol invasion as exemplified in the Safinayeh Tabriz), it is clear (as mentioned by Diakonov) that Ganja was an Iranic speaking city, at least before the Mongols and Ilkhanid era. Note cities, even when they accept migrants, usually have some capacity to absorb the migrants and mould them into the culture of the city. According to Professor Xavier De Planhol:

“Thus Turkish nomads, in spite of their deep penetration throughout Iranian lands, only slightly influenced the local culture. Elements borrowed by the Iranians from their invaders were negligible.”

(X.D. Planhol, LANDS OF IRAN in Encyclopedia Iranica)

 

Even during the Mongol era, Hamdullah Mostowfi in his Nozhat al-Qolub mentions that the city of Abhar (near modern Zanjan) has migrants from everywhere,but their language is of not yet unified, but it will be most likely be a modified Persian”.

 

We note that travelers before the time of Nizami Ganjavi maintain Persian (not necessarily Khorasanian Persian) was the major binding language and was a common language of the area. The influx of Turkish nomads from the Seljuqs and the much larger influx during the Mongol/Khwarazmid movement were some of the phases of history in which Turkification of Arran was gradually started. Indeed on the eve of the Mongol invasion, large numbers of Turkomen tribes are mentioned in the Caucasia by Nasavi, the Khwarazmian historian. It is not known if these were pushed by the waves of Mongols attacking Central Asia or had come gradually during the Seljuq era.  But they were recent nomads and their ancestry does not go back to the Shaddadid era.   Their culture was also not urban and we do not have any cities with Turkic names at that time while Ganja, Darband, Barda’, Baku and etc. are all Iranic names.

 

Thus the subsequent Khwarazmian/Mongol push was instrumental for the gradual Turkicization of the region of Arran(which in many maps also includes Shirwan).  However, just taking into account the Seljuq/Eldiguzid era before Khwarzmian empire, the Oghuz nomads only settled in grazing lands and not cities and even most nomads of Arran and Sherwan were probably Kurdish and other Iranian/Caucasian types.  The culture of urban Muslim people and city dwellers was firmly Iranian as shown by the Nozhat al-Majales and its everyday idiom.

 

As noted, the Safinaye Tabriz shows a Persianate-Iranian culture in the city of Tabriz (a city which was also under the Ildiguzids like Ganja) during the Mongol era. This, despite the fact that the Mongol army itself was overwhelmingly composed of Turkic tribes. The urban life of the major cities of the area was not compatible with the nomadic culture of the Turkomen tribes and the Muslim cities had Perso-Islamic culture. In Iranian Azerbaijan for example, according to the Encyclopedia Iranica, the deciding factor for Turkification was the Safavid period:

But the decisive period no doubt occurred in the Safavid period with the adoption of Shi’ism as the state religion of Iran, while the Ottoman state remained faithful to Sunnism. Soon Shi’ite propaganda among the tribes located outside of the urban centers of orthodoxy, prompted the Anatolian nomad tribes to return to Iran. This migration began in 1500 when Shah Esmail assembled the Qezelbash tribes in the region of Erzincan. The attraction made itself felt as fa