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Azerbaijanis (sometimes described as Azerbaijani Turks or Azeris) are a people numbering more than 25 million worldwide. The majority, around 17 million, live in Iran. The rest, around 8 million, live in Republic of Azerbaijan. There are also sizeable communities in Turkey, Georgia, Russia, USA, Canada, and Germany. The overwealming majority are Shi'a Muslims.



Much has been debated about the racial, cultural and linguistic origin of the Azerbaijani people. It is difficult to disentangle national pride and ambition, imperial or political propaganda and good science.

Having said this, a fair number of historians consider the nation of Azerbaijani Turks the inheritants of ancient Iranian Medes. Others believe they are the descendants of various bodies of Turks, in particular the Oghuz Turks, but also Scythians (Ishkuz), Cimmerians, Huns, Gokturks, Khazars, Barsils, Kurtugurs, Saragurs, Kipchaks and others.

The most commonly accepted view is that the Azerbaijanis are the result of a mixture of Iranian, Caucasian and Turkish waves of immigration. This is supported by the analysis of sources which shows that many different people and ethnic groups have settled in the region and have left their influences.

According to the 1911 Encyclopdia Britannica "the people of the Mada (Mata), the Medes, appear in history first in 836 B.C., when the Assyrian conqueror Shalmaneser II in his wars against the tribes of the Zagros received the tribute of the Amadai ....Herodotus gives a list of six Median tribes among them the Paraetaceni....names in the Assyrian inscriptions prove that the tribes in the Zagros and the northern parts of Media (Azerbaijan) were Iranian but an aboriginal population.....perhaps connected with the numerous tribes of the Caucasus (northern Azerbaijan, Albania)....Gelae, Tapuri, Cadusii, Amardi, Utii and other tribes in northern Media (Azerbaijan) and on the shores of the Caspian were not Iranians. With them Polybius, Strabo and Pliny mention the Anariaci, whom they consider as a particular tribe; but in reality their name, the Non-Aryans, is the comprehensive designation of all these small tribes.....

According to Caucasus Albanian historian Moses Kalankaytuk, in the period between 191-200 A.D., hordes of Barsil and Khazar Turks crossed the Kura river in Azerbaijan.

According to the historian Tabari, descriptions of incursions into Azerbaijan by Turks (Huns and Khazars) occurred in the 4th and 5th centuries. Tabari also states that by the mid-6th century, there was a significant Turkish presence in Azerbaijan.

Kalankatly also states that in the year 629, the army of the Gokturks as well as a series Khazar Turkic tribes entered Azerbaijan and declared the land to be "eternal possession" of Turks.

Byzantine sources of the mid-6th century refer to the "settlement of Khazar Turks" in the left bank of the Kura river, and Moisey Khaghankatli, a historian from pre-Islamic Azerbaijan, referred to a "Hun state" on the left bank of the Kura River in the 7th century.

According to Professor Peter B. Golden, "In the course of the seventh century, the two major tribal unions emerged in Azerbaijan under the Turk banner: the Khazars and the Bulgars...the Khazars formed the bulk of the Turk forces used by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (610-640) in his counter-offensive against the Sasanids (rulers) in Azerbaijan"

Pre-Islamic Turkic presence in Azerbaijan is evident in literature after the Islamic conquest of the region, in an era that was famous for its historical, geographical and scientific analyzations of the world by Muslim scholars and Islamic states. According to the 7th century work of Ubeid ibn Shariyya al-Jurhumi, the Muslim Caliph Mueviyyen (661-680) was told that Azerbaijan "has long been a land of Turks. Having gathered over there, they have mixed with one another and become integrated."

It must also be noted that the famous "Book of Dede Korkut" which is the epic of the Oghuz Turks (considered the main ancestors of Azerbaijanis) was written in central-Asia in the 6th and 7th centuries. Certain groups want to connect that book to Azarbaijan.


Main article: Azerbaijani language

The Azerbaijanis speak Azerbaijani (sometimes called Azerbaijani Turkish or Azeri) which is a Turkic language mixed with the original Tati language of the area which was an Iranin language. Some other Turkic languages are Turkish and Turkmen (see also Turkic peoples), Yakuti and Uzbeki. The standard Azerbaijani language developed from the 10th century onwards.

Prior to the 10th century, there were various Turkish dialects spoken across the region.

The modern written language of the Azerbaijanis developed from the 10th to the 13th centuries, after the Oghuz Turkic migrations and the decline of the Oghuz Yabgu state in Central Asia. This is the timespan that is called Azerbaijan's cultural and linguistic "golden age".


There are about total 21 to 40 million Azerbaijanis in the world, but census figures are incomplete.

It is estimated that there are 16,8 million Azerbaijanis in Iran (CIA-Handbook), 8 million in the Republic of Azerbaijan, 600,000 to 2.16 million in Russia, possibly over one million in the US, between 50 and 500 thousand in each of Ukraine and Germany, more than 800 thousand in Turkey, 400 thousand in Georgia, and 78.3 thousand to 200 thousand in Kazakhstan. The United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan also have some populations of Azerbaijanis living there.

More than 90% of Azerbaijanis are Shia Muslims Turks, but there are also Sunni Muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians and Bah's. In recent years there have been many conversions to Sunni Islam.

See also

fr:Azri (peuple) ka:აზერბაიჯანელები zh:阿塞拜疆族


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