Learn more about Persian people
- This article is about the Persian people, an ethnic group found mainly in Iran. For information about all peoples of Iran, see Iranians. For Central Asian Persians see Tajiks. For the ancient empire, see Persian Empire.
|Total population||c. 37-43 million (not including sub-groups)|
|Regions with significant populations|| Iran:|
40,810,716<ref>MSN Encarta - Iran</ref>
34,689,910 <ref>CIA - The World Factbook -- Iran</ref>
|Language||Persian (Western dialect, in addition to regional varieties)|
|Religion|| Islam, Bahá'í Faith, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">Other Iranian peoples (Lurs, Kurds, etc)</td>
Significant numbers of Persians also reside outside of Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan, with the largest communities found in the United States, Germany, England, Canada, Kuwait, Turkey and UAE. Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, and the UAE also have large populations of Persian descendents, referred to as Ajamis. Smaller communities are also found in surrounding countries and the Arabian Peninsula.
Although all Iranians, including Persians, have always referred to their land as Iran or other similar variations, the term Persia was adopted by all western languages through the Greeks and was used as an official name for Iran by the West until 1935. Due to that label, all Iranians were considered Persian. Therefore, many Western sources, when regarding Iran's history, will label many non-Persian Iranians as Persians, which distinguishes nationality, not necessarily the Persian ethnic group.
Also, many others who embraced the Persian language and culture are also often referred to as Persian, not necessarily meaning ethnic group, but rather as a part of Persian civilization (culturally and linguistically).
The Persians are descendents of the Aryan (Indo-Iranian) tribes that began migrating from Central Asia into what is now Iran in the 2nd millennium BC.<ref>http://wwwa.britannica.com/eb/article-230041?tocId=230041</ref><ref name="EncWH">The Medes and the Persians, c.1500-559 from The Encyclopedia of World History Sixth Edition, Peter N. Stearns (general editor), © 2001 The Houghton Mifflin Company, at Bartleby.com.</ref><ref>Bahman Firuzmandi "Mad, Hakhamanishi, Ashkani, Sasani" pp. 20</ref> The Persian language and other Iranian tongues emerged as these Aryan tribes split up into two major groups, the Persians and the Medes, and intermarried with peoples indigenous to the Iranian plateau such as the Elamites.<ref name=Columbia>Iran. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05</ref><ref>Bahman Firuzmandi "Mad, Hakhamanishi, Ashkani, Sasani" pp. 12-19</ref> The first known written record about them is from an Assyrian inscription of the 834 BC, which mentions both Parsua (Persians) and Muddai (Medes).<ref>Abdolhossein Zarinkoob "Ruzgaran : tarikh-i Iran az aghz ta saqut saltnat Pahlvi" pp. 37</ref><ref>Bahman Firuzmandi "Mad, Hakhamanishi, Ashkani, Sasani" pp. 155</ref> The name 'Parsua' first used as a general designation by Assyrians to refer to southwestern Iranian tribes (who refered to themselves as Aryans). Greeks rendered it to 'Persis' and by the time of their convertion to Islam which Arabs rendered it to 'Fars' or 'Faras', it had with certainty an ethnic concept.
The ancient Persians from the province of Pars became the rulers of a large empire under the Achaemenid dynasty (Hakhamanesheeyan) in the sixth century BC, reuniting the tribes and other provinces of the ancient Iranian plateau and forming the Persian Empire. Over the centuries Persia was ruled by various dynasties; some of them were ethnic Iranians including the Achaemenids, Parthians (Ashkanian), Sassanids (Sassanian), Buwayhids and Samanids, and some of them were not, such as the Seleucids, Ummayyads, Abbasids, Seljuk Turks, Afsharids and Qajars.
The founding dynasty of the empire, the Achaemenids, and later the Sassanids, were from the southern province of Pars, (the Parthian dynasty arose from the north) from which in Western literature the word Persia is derived and used to distinguish between ancient and modern Iran. (lit: Land of the Aryans) However, according to archaeological evidence found in modern day Iran in the form of cuneiforms that go back to the Achaemenid era, it is evident that the native name of Persia had been applied to Iran from its birth.<ref>Persia - Britannica Concise Encyclopedia</ref><ref>The Splendor of Persia: The Land and the People - by Robert Payne</ref>
Ethnic Persians can also be found outside of Iran and include the Tajiks and Farsiwan who can be found in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the Xinjiang province of China. Another group called the Tats lives mainly in the Caucasus region concentrated in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russian Dagestan. The Parsis, a small community in India, are also largely descended from Persian Zoroastrian refugees who fled from Persia following the Arab conquests. The Iranis, another small community in western India, are descended from more recent Persian Zoroastrian immigrants to the subcontinent. In addition, the Hazara are largely a Persianized Turkic-Mongol ethnic group.
 Persian language
The Persian language is one of the world's oldest languages still in use today, and is known to have one of the most powerful literary traditions, with formidable Persian poets like Hafez, Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Attar, Saadi, Nezami and, of course, the legendary Rumi. By native speakers as well as in Urdu, Arabic and other neighboring languages, it is called Fārsī, and additionally Dari or Tajiki east of Iran. It is part of the Iranian sub-section of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Persian-speakers are today in the majority in Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan <ref>BBC News - Afghan poll's ethnic battleground</ref>, and form a large minority in Uzbekistan as well. Smaller groups of Persian-speakers are found in Pakistan and western China, as well as in Bahrain, Iraq, and Azerbaijan.
The Persian civilization spawned three major religions: Zoroastrianism, Manichaeanism, and the Bahá'í Faith. Other religions such as Mazdakism and Manichaenism also arose from ancient Iran, with the former having been dubbed the first communistic ideology, and the latter heavily influencing Saint Augustine, hence, indirectly influencing Christianity: Both religions were sub-branches of Zoroastrianism. Today many scholars are still debating which religion first introduced monotheism; Zoroastrianism, or Judaism. They, however, have conceded that it was the religion of Zoroastrianism that for the first time introduced angelology, demonology, apocalyptical doctrines, as well as, some eschatological notions to humanity. <ref>JewishEncyclopedia.com - Zoroastrianism</ref> Such ideas would later be passed on to the Babylonian Jews via the Persian Empire. All of these reflect the dualism of Persian culture which has also significantly influenced Western civilization. In addition, Persian civilization has affected its neighbors through culture, religion, and language.
Most Persians in Iran are Shia Muslims, while smaller communties of Shia Sufis, Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, and Bahá'ís remain. There are also Persians who are Atheist and Agnostic. Also see religious minorities in Iran.
 Persian arts
The artistic heritage of Persia is actually quite eclectic and includes major contributions from both east and west. Persian art borrowed heavily from the indigenous Elamite civilization and Mesopotamia and later from Hellenism (as can be seen with statues from the Greek period). In addition, due to Persia's somewhat central location, it has served as a fusion point between eastern and western arts and architecture as Greco-Roman influence was often fused with ideas and techniques from India and China. When talking of the creative Persian arts one has to include a geographic area that actually extends into Central Asia, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, and Iraq as well as modern Iran. This vast geographic region has been pivotal in the development of the Persian arts as a whole.
 Persian painting and depiction artistry
Persians artistic expression can be seen as far back as the Achaemenid period as numerous statues depicting various important figures, usually of political significance as well as religious, such as the Immortals (elite troops of the emperor) are indicative of the influence of Mesopotamia and ancient Babylon. What is perhaps most representative of a more indigenous artistic expression are Persian miniatures. Although the influence of Chinese art is apparent, local Persian artists used the art form in various ways including portraits that could be seen from the Ottoman Empire to the courts of the Safavids and Mughals.
 Persian music
The music of Persia goes back to the days of Barbod in the royal Sassanid courts, and even earlier. As it evolved, a distinct eastern Mediterranean style emerged as Persian folk music is often quite similar to the music of modern Iran's neighbors. In modern times, musical tradition has seen setbacks due to the religious government's policies in Iran, but has survived in the form of Iranian exiles and dissidents who have turned to Western rock music with a distinctive Iranian style as well as Persian rap. A prominent persian female singer is Googoosh who was the most famous pre-revoloutionary singer was silenced after the revoloution. In 2000, Googoosh left Iran to Canada where she gave her first concert in 25 years.
 Persian architecture
Architecture is one of the areas where Persians have made outstanding contributions. Ancient examples can be seen in the ruins at Persepolis, while in modern times monuments such as the Tomb of Omar Khayyam are displays of the varied tradition in Persia. Various cities in Iran are historical displays of a distinctive Persian style that can be seen in the Kharaghan twin towers of Qazvin province and the Shah Mosque found in Isfahan. Persian architecture streams over the borders of Iran and is clearly seen throughout Central Asia as with the Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarkand and the Minaret of Jam in western Afghanistan. Islamic architecture was founded on the base established by the Persians. Persian techniques can also be clearly seen in the structures of the Taj Mahal at Agra and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
 Persian rugs
Gottfried Semper called rugs "the original means of separating space". Rug weaving was thus developed by ancient civilizations as a basis of architecture.
 Persian gardens
The Persian garden was designed as a reflection of paradise on earth; the word "garden" itself coming from Persian roots as does the word paradise which was often associated with Persian gardens. Although having existed since ancient times, the Persian garden gained greater prominence during the Islamic period as Arab rulers cultivated Persian techniques to create gardens of Persian design from Al-Andalus to Kashgar. Persian gardens are immortalized in the One Thousand and one nights and the works of Omar Khayyam.
 Persian women
Persian women have played an important role throughout history. Shahrazad, though fictional, is an important figure of female wit and intelligence, while the beauty of Mumtaz Mahal inspired the building of the Taj Mahal itself. While in ancient times, aristocratic females possessed numerous rights sometimes on par with men, generally Persian women did not attain greater parity until the 20th century. Females were given such status in ancient Persia that they were the first to ever serve in a national military. Peace activists such as Shirin Ebadi have pushed for greater rights for women, while many Iranian women exiles have set examples of excellence that have no doubt inspired many Persian women to strive for change in the conservative society prevalent in today's Iran. Even with the current climate of religious conservativism Persian women still tend to take a more active role in social, religious and family affairs than their Arab or Turkish counterparts. Despite the barriers imposed by the Revolution, Iranian women can be seen working in a variety of areas such as politics, law enforcement, taxi driving, etc. Universities still tend to be dominated by women in Iran and one may find a large number of female legislators in the Iranian Majlis (parliament), even by western standards. Former Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, noted for her eloquence in dealing with western media, set a new standard for aspiring Iranian female politicians while serving under President Khatami. Outstanding Iranian female academics, such as Laleh Bakhtiar have forever left a mark in the fields they contribute to.
From the humble brick to the windmill, Persians have strived to create a better world by mixing creativity with art. Persian culture can be defined through its literary tradition, social customs, religions (both past and present), distinctive foods, and foreign influences that have merged with local traditions. In recent years, Persian culture has seen itself expressed through the medium of films as Persian cinema has attained a substantial amount of international and critical acclaim through such films as Children of Heaven and Taste of Cherry, which give both insights into the current state of Persian culture and profound depictions of the general human condition.
 See also
- Demographics of Iran
- History of Iran
- Iranian Kuwaitis
- List of Iranians
- Persian Jews
- Iranis of India
- Parsis of India
 External links
- Ethnologue information for Western Persians
- Statistics on geographic distribution of Persians worldwide
- Persian Diasporade:Perser (Volk)