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Circassians in iran

The meaning of «circassians in iran»

The Circassians in Iran (Circassian: Pерсым ис Адыгэхэр, Persım yis Adıgəxər; Persian: چرکس های ایران‎) are an ethnic minority in Iran. Circassians in Iran differ somewhat from other Circassians in diaspora in that most in the former stem from the Safavid and Qajar era, although a number migrated as muhajirs in the late 19th century as well. The Circassians in Iran were very influential during periods in the last few centuries. The vast majority of them have assimilated to Persian language, and no sizeable number speaks their native Circassian languages anymore.[1] Once a very large minority in Iran, nowadays due to being heavily assimilated over the course of time and the lack of censuses based on ethnicity, population estimates vary significantly. They are, after the Georgians, the largest Caucasus-derived group in the nation.

In Persian, the word Cherkes (چرکس) is sometimes applied generally to Caucasian peoples living beyond Derbent in Dagestan,[4] which was the northernmost principal city of Iran prior to its ceding to Russia in the first half of the 19th century following the Treaty of Gulistan.

Circassians in Iran have a long history. To a certain good extent, they shared the same role as their brethren who lived in neighbouring Ottoman Turkey; many were importees, deportees, slaves, but also made up many of the notable noble families in the empire, while many others were kingmakers, military commanders, soldiers, craftsmen, peasants, while they also composed many of the kings' wives and women in the harem. Under the various kings of the Safavid and Qajar dynasty, many Circassians would eventually happen to live in Iran.[5]

The first Circassian presence in Iran dates to the early Safavid era, during which Shaykh Junayd raided various regions of Circassia and carried of prisoners back.[6] From the time of king (shah) Tahmasp I (r. 1524-1576), the Circassians started to play an important role in Iranian society,[6] and began to appear as a large ethnic group in the successive empires based in Iran.

In order to make a counterbalance to the tribal, ethnic, and favoured interests the Qizilbash gave which make a system imbalanced, Tahmasp I had already been making the first steps of creating a new layer in Iranian society.[7] The kings before Tahmasp and he himself often found themselves incapable of ruling effectively due to the extremely strong influence the Qizilbash expressed in all spheres of the empire. The Qizilbash had formed the backbone of the Safaviyya from the earliest days, and they had always provided substantial military as well, on which the Safavids relied for a long period of time. In order to break this system, a counterbalance was needed, and a new layer in society was the medium through which this could be reached.[7] This new layer in society, was called the "third force", as they were a new ethnic class, or "force", alongside the Turkomans and Persians. This new layer, initiated by Tahmasp I, would be composed of many hundreds of thousands of Christian and pagan Caucasian, mostly ethnically Circassian and Georgian, deportees, importees, slaves, and migrants. This new society layer was to be eventually fully accomplished and implemented by king Abbas I (r. 1588-1629).[8] Out of this new layer, a new military force was established as well; a force that would directly contest the hegemony of the Qizilbash everywhere in the empire, replace them from all their positions, thereby firmly securing the kings' grip over the kingdom. These gholams, or "military slaves", were part of this newly created layer in society. The gholam slave system, although initiated by Tahmasp I, was perfectioned and fully implemented by king Abbas I, and its rank and file were drawn from these massive amounts of ethnic Circassians, Georgians, Armenians and other peoples of the Caucasus, such as Lezgins. Eventually, these large amounts of Circassians and other Caucasians, only loyal to the shah, replaced the Qizilbash and vied through the system with them for political hegemony and supremacy, and were to be victorious,[4] although sometimes they would vy against each other as well.[9]

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