Country Listing

Iran Table of Contents


Other Groups

Many other Turkic-speaking groups are scattered throughout Iran, but mainly along the northern tier of provinces. In the northeastern part of East Azarbaijan live some fifty tribes collectively called the Ilsavan (formerly known as Shahsavan). The Ilsavan, who may number as many as 100,000, are pastoral and take their flocks to summer pastures on the high slopes of Mount Sabalan and to winter pastures in the Dasht-e Moghan, adjacent to the Aras River, which forms the frontier between Iran and the Soviet Union. The Ilsavan first appeared in Iranian history as staunch supporters of the Safavid dynasty, which originated during the fifteenth century in Ardabil, a town located in a valley on the south side of Mount Sabalan. The Qajars, from whom came the royal family that Reza Shah dethroned, form a Turkic-speaking enclave among the Mazandarani. Some are settled agriculturists while others are pastoral nomads. In the northeastern part of Mazandaran, in a region known as the Turkoman Sahra, live several tribes of Turkomans, some of which are sections of larger tribes living across the border in the Soviet Union. In 1986 the number of Turkomans in Iran was estimated to be about 250,000. Several small, nomadic, Turkic-speaking groups, including Qarapakhs and Uzbeks, live in Khorasan. Small numbers of Qarapakhs also live in northwestern Iran along the southern shore of Lake Urmia.

The Afshars are one of the most scattered of the Turkic-speaking groups. A seminomadic people who speak a dialect akin to Azarbaijani, they are found along the shore of Lake Urmia, around Zanjan, along the borders of Kurdistan, south of Kerman, and in Khorasan. These separated groups are estimated to total 100,000, but they do not share any consciousness of a common identity nor do they have any political unity. Nevertheless, they all refer to themselves as Afshars and differentiate themselves from other groups, both Turk and non-Turk, that surround them.

Data as of December 1987