New Book – Pan-Turkism: Iran and Azarbaijan

 I would like to take this opportunity to introduce readers to a new book entitled “Pan-Turkism: Iran and Azarbaijan” by Mohammad-Reza Mohseni (with the foreword by Dr. Houshang Tale):

[Click Book Jacket to Enlarge] For information on obtaining this text, kindly consult Mohammad-Reza Mohseni’s site by clicking here… 

The book begins with a concise and informative overview of the philosophies of pan-Turkism. The author outlines how pan-Turkist philosophers  engage in the following processes:

  • Re-writing history, including the falsification of  books in translations.
  • Appropriation of the historiography and cultural figures of non-Turkic peoples.

It must be noted however that the originators of pan-Turkism were not of Turkish nationality. These were almost wholly of European origins, dating to the 19th century.

David Leon Cahun (1841-1900) proposed that the Turks were a superior race or more specifically “supermen”. The notion of racial superiority is an alien concept among the Turks who have always been (and remain) warm, open, friendly and hospitable to all who visit or settle in Turkey. Racism has never existed among Turks or Turkic-speakers – the importation of this concept can be traced to European thinkers such as Leon Cahun, Count Helmuth Von Moltke (1800-1891), Arminius (Hermann) Vambery (1832-1913), Konstanty Borzecki (1826-1876) and Elias John Wilkinson Gibb (1857-1901). Cahun placed a heavy emphasis on distancing Turkic peoples from Persianate civilization and Iranian peoples. 

A whole series of ancient languages and civilizations have been labelled by pan-Turks as “Turkic”, including Sumeria, the Elamo-Dravidian civilization, and even Etruscan (pre-Roman) Italy. With the exception of pan-Turkist activists, the Republic of Azerbaijan (thus named from 1918) and the Turkish Republic, these theses have failed to gain scientific and academic recognition at the international level.

Ancient Sumerian wheel and axle. The Sumerians are one of the progenitor peoples of civilization with inventions such as the wheel-axle. Pan-Turk activists claim that the ancient Sumerians spoke a dialect of Turkish and that they were Turks. Linguistic and archaeological studies by international scholarship fails to verify pan-Turkist claims. 

Mohseni’s book tabulates the claims of pan-Turks against Iranian Azarbaijan. The author then places these claims under scholarly scrutiny. 

A common pan-Turkist fallacy for example, is that since modern-day Azaris speak a Turkic language, they then must be Turks by race. Genetic studies have failed to show Iranian Azaris as being genetically related to Central Asian Turkic peoples. These same studies have in fact shown Azaris to be genetically related to other Iranian peoples such as Kurds, Persians, Lurs, etc. For more on these studies consult:


[Click photos to Enlarge] American actor Samuel B. Jackson (left) and New Zealand-born director Peter Jackson.  Both men share the name “Jackson”, as well as the English language. Being an Anglophone and having an English name does not mean that one is Anglo-Saxon by race. In that case, the entire Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Amerindian population of the United States and Canada are Anglo-Saxons! Likewise, being a Turcophone does not mean that one is Turkish or Turkic by race. National identity is based on a number of domains, only one of which is defined by language. Nevertheless, this simplistic logic (language = race) is being used by pan-Turkist activists, politicians, and lobbyists to attack the Iranian heritage of the people of Azarbaijan and Iran in general.

 Iranian Azaris and those of the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan were linguistically  Turkified by conquering Turkic-speaking rulers, a process explained in detail by Mohseni. 

[Click Image to Enlarge] Professor Colin Renfrew’s diagram outlining the four ways in which language displacement can occur. These are (from top to bottom) (1) initial migrations (2) Farming dispersal (3) Late climate-related dispersal and (4) Elite dominance. It was the latter process (Elite dominance by Turkic-speaking elites) that spread the Turkic languages into not only Albania/Arran (modern Republic of Azerbaijan), Iranian Azarbaijan but also into Anatolia (diagram in “World Linguistic Diversity”. Colin Renfrew, Scientific American, 1994, p.116-120, 122-123).

Mohseni’s book is an important academic work on the study of pan-Turkist ideology. As noted previously in this book review, pan-Turkism never originated in Turkey or among the Turks – it is essentially a philosophy of European origins. For more on this little known topic  consult: Ideology, Founders and Objectives of Pan-Turkism

Analysis of the 2004 Alexander Movie (Revised 2011)


The article below was originally posted on Iranscope  in 2004, followed later in 2004 by a  Greek site, Payvand news of Iran, and irandokht. Farrokh’s observations were also cited on the Russian academic-encyclopedia site, and Radio Free Europe,

The version below has been updated and revised in 2011.


Hollywood released one of its epic historical-movie  blockbusters in 2004 entitled: Alexander,  directed by the distinguished director Oliver Stone.

The movie endeavours to recreate the events of the Hellenic conquests and the downfall of the first Persian Achaemenid Empire. It is important to note however, that simply because a movie is high budget, casts high profile Hollywood actors and is directed by top ranking directors, does not make it flawless.

Beyond the entertainment value of Oliver Stone’s latest project, a number of serious errors do exist in the movie, many which may appear trivial. These “trivial” errors are nevertheless of consequence to Iranians, Greeks and all viewers in general. Movies are a powerful medium of leanring and persuation, irrespective of how vociforously we are told that the movie is simply “entertainment”.

Ironically, it was my Greek friends and colleagues who brought the flaws of Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” picture to my attention. There are a total of five overall errors that are listed and discussed below.

(1) The Battle of Gaugamela

Oliver Stone has relied on Dr. Robin Lane Fox, one of the world’s foremost experts in the area of Alexander and Hellenic Studies. Unfortunately, Dr. Fox is essentially a Eurocentrist, a fact which is demosntrated in his writings and the Alexander picture he “advised”.

Thanks in large part to Robin Lane Fox’s tutelage. the movie promotes distortions against ancient Iran, Iranian culture, people and the Achaemenid army.

However it must be pointed out that the vast majority of modern-day scholars reject Eurocentricism as espoused by Dr. Fox in the Alexander movie.

Robin Lane-Fox, a Classical (Greco-Roman) historian,  is a Fellow of New College, Oxford and University of Oxford Reader in Ancient History. His writings and role in the 2004 movie “Alexander” has highlighted the power of Eurocentricism in academia and the media. Eurocentrist thinking, like all ideologically-driven biases, distorts historiography.

The Shahrbaraz Blog contains numerous Blogs that outline Dr. Fox’s distorted Alexandro-philia and his tendency to write with a patronizing and anger-ridden tone against ancient Iran. Dr. Fox’s book is a standard reference text in the area of Alexandrian Studies:  

TitleAlexander the Great., Author: Robin Lane Fox, Publisher: Penguin, Dates: 1986, 1994 and 2011, ISBN: 0140088784

Despite excellent reviews of his book by critics and scholars, Dr. Fox does not understand the military of ancient Persia.

A typographical movie shot of the battle of Gaugamela, shows the Greeks advancing in ordered and disciplined ranks. In contrast, the armies of Darius III are shown as little better than an amorphous mob. This is a false image of the Achaemenid army. The Achaemenids used drums and musical instruments to direct the marching tactics of their troops in battle.

Second, the Achaemeneans used the decimal system, which was in fact, unknown to the Greeks of the period. Persian units were formed in legions of 10, 100 or 1000 or 10,000. A typical term was “Hezar-Patesh” (roughly equivalent to “leader of a thousand men”). Dr. Fox distorts this information and thanks to his “advising”, the movie shows the Achaemenid army as a mob-like organization.

Dr. Fox also omits (or is unaware) that the Persians had developed a sophisticated system of heraldry and that their troops wore standard uniforms. The Greeks were certainly excellent fighters and were thoroughly organized, but this does not mean that the Persians were not. The Greeks were militarily superior at the time with respect to armaments, tactics and military training.

Bringing Classical Eurocentricism to life: Dr. Robn Lane Fox acts as one of Alexander’s companion cavalry in the 2004 Oliver Stone movie “Alexander”.  It is interesting that Dr. Fox portrays Iranians as cartoon-like “Arabian nights” characters despite numerous Greek art works that show both Greeks and Iranians as Caucasians. (Source: website).

This military imbalance changed with the coming of the Parthian and Sassanian cavalry. The Iranian Savaran-اسواران ساسانی– (elite Cavalry) successfully halted and defeated many of the later Greek-Hoplite inspired Roman armies. Many Romans attempted to imitate Alexander and failed against Persia. These include Marcus Lucinius Crassus at Carrhae, Marc Antony at Tabriz (where he failed twice), Gordian III at Mesiche, Phillip the Arab near modern Syria, Valerian at Barbablissos, and Julian the Apostate in Mesopotamia. 

I personally doubt that Hollywood will recreate the spectacular Roman defeats suffered against Parthian and Sassanian Persia as these will challenge contemporary notions of the Alexandrian legacy.

In addition, the contemporary Iranian establishment has not emphasized the proud legacy of the Parthian and Sassanian Savaran.

Professor Fox’s elementary grasp of Iranian militaria should not inspire much confidence with respect to accurate portrayals of Iranians in general. You may wish to read the following books by Professors Sekunda and Head who are experts on the uniforms, dress and equipment of the ancient Greeks and Achaemenid Persians.

Title: The Persian Army: 560-330 BCAuthor: Nick Sekunda, Publisher: Osprey Men at Arms Elite Series, Date: 1992, ISBN: 1855322501 

Title: The Achaemenid Persian ArmyAuthor: Duncan Head, Publisher: Montvert Publications, Date: 1992, ISBN: 1874101000

There are many errors with the uniforms portrayed as “Persian”. As you will see in these books, the colors and materials of Achaemenid Persians were invariably bright with a mix of shades of purple, Saffron, red dyes, shades of blue and green, mixed with darker browns (almost Burgundy) and black. These fashions and regalia were resuscitated during the Sassanian dynasty (226-651 AD). Only the Persian archers (and a few guards) are shown with some accuracy; the same cannot be said with respect to the other “Persians” of the movie set.

More puzzling is the “Arabesque” way in which ancient Persians are portrayed in this battle. I was shocked to see Arabian camel riders used to portray one of the vanguards of Darius III’s attack on Alexander at the battle scene. Arabs were auxiliary units in the Achaemenean army at the time, and were not a major factor. I also noticed that an infantry troop of the Achaemenid advance guard was speaking in Arabic. Persian is not related to Arabic; it is an Indo-European language akin to the languages of Europe and India.

This may be the usual Hollywood habit however of portraying Iranians as Arabs, a topic we will re-visit later in this commentary.

(2) Confusing Persia with Babylon

It is very interesting that Professor Fox does not refer to the Achaemenid capitals in Susa, Maracanda (Samarqand), Media or Persopolis. The destruction of Persopolis by Alexander is a major event – instead the movie shows Alexander entering the city of Babylon, implying that this was the administrative capital of Persia. Babylon was simply another satrapy of the empire; not its capital. Babylon had already been incorporated into the Persian Empire in 539 BC by Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC)Why is Persopolis and its destruction not mentioned? There was also the destruction of the three major Zoroastrian texts by Alexander – also not referred to in the movie.

A possible reason for this may be found in Professor Fox’s interview with the distinguished journal “Archeology Today” (Riding with Alexander). Note the statement below, and how indicative it is of Dr. Fox’s lack of understanding of Classical Achaemenid Persia:

We all understood that the separate “parts” of Oliver’s drama must be “color-coded” and … which could not totally depart from audiences’ expectations of Greek or Babylonian imagery

Note the statement “expectations of Greek or Babylonian imagery“. What “expectations“  are being discussed here? 

But there is another dangerous point made by Fox – notice that he describes “Babylonian” and NOT Persian imagry. This ties into a trend among select scholars (usually in Assyriology, cuneiform and Baylonian studies) who view ancient Persia as a derivative of Mesopotamian civilization. Put crudely, this is the view that ancient Persia is essentially a “clone” or “copy” of the Mesopotamian. This interpreation is highly biased as it is categorically false.

The Iranian plateau has been host to complex civilizations of its own for thousands of years – these are in cases, more ancient than the Mesopotamian civilizations. For more on this topic consult the following:

The case of the 5000-year-old Shahr e Sookhteh (Burnt City). Skeleton of a young woman from the Burnt City. Note artificial eye in the eye socket of the skull. The site of the Burnt City has also yielded numerous interesting finds including an ancient measuring ruler, backgammon game pieces and an animation device.  Shahr e Sookhteh has no connection to other ancient civilizations in Western Asia although its close proximity to the site of Mohenjo-Daro (in present-day Pakistan) is possible. What is certain is that the Burnt City is neither connected to – nor derived from – the Mesopotamian plain.

Fox’s statement implies that Persia had no real arts worth mentioning, and that Persia is simply an extension of Babylon or at best interchangeable.  This same view pervades with respect to historical revisionism against Cyrus the Great and the legacy of his humanistic policies.

The West Wall in Jerusalem. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus allowed the Jewish captives to return to Israel and rebuild the Hebrew temple. It is believed that approximately 40,000 did permanently return to Israel. Despite Cyrus’ enlightened policies, a strong core of (mainly Assyriology-trained) academics have been attacking the history of Cyrus as “propaganda” .

As noted previously, Babylon was not a major power at the time of Alexander. Persian arts and architecture were an eclectic synthesis of indigenous (e.g Median, Elamite), Lydian, and Mesopotamian styles, including Babylonian. The city-palace of Persopolis is very distinct and cannot be crudely termed as Babylonian. It is, to put it mildly, shocking, that the treatment of Persian studies is addressed at such a shallow level by Professor Fox.

An important point must be made, especially with respect to the reason why Alexander was so violent in his conquest of Persia. The Greeks were simply taking revenge for the earlier invasion of their country by Darius the Great and his son Xerxes. The Greeks paid a heavy price for their battles at Marathon (490 BC), Thermopylae (17th September, 490 BC), Athens (27th September, 490 BC), Salamis (29th September, 490 BC), and Plataea (479 BC). It is significant that when Xerxes burned Athens, he ordered the sacred statues of the Greek gods to be removed and brought to Persia. The Greeks revered their gods and this Persian act was a national insult to them. Most contemporary Iranians are not aware of these facts. This certainly is not an excuse for what happened at Alexander’s time, but it does help put these events in perspective.

Although many Iranians demonize Alexander, the man did come to develop a great deal of respect for Persia. The more Alexander stayed in Persia, the more “Persian” he became, in manners and in dress. Alexander paid his respects at the tomb of Cyrus the Great and indeed saw himself as the heir of Cyrus. The Greeks so admired Cyrus the Great, that they saw his manner of government as a model. You may wish to read the Greek “Cyropedia” by Xenophon:

If Aristotle made racist statements about the Persians (and this is shown in the movie), it must also be made clear that many Greeks also praised the Persians (see the aforementioned Xenophon or Plutarch in his discussion of the Parthian general Surena). A very positive aspect of the Alexander movie is that Alexander praises the “east” for its architecture and civilization. It is possible that Alexander was poisoned by some of his officers for becoming too “Persian”.

(3) The Blondism of Alexander

A very serious concern of the Alexander movie is the promotion of the idea of the “Nordicism” of ancient Greece. Put simply, this is the thesis that ancient Greeks were not only predominantly blonde, but “Nordic”, in the manner of present-day Scandinavians and Northern Germans. Nordicists have long argued, since the late 1700s, that the people of ancient and modern Greece are unrelated.

Nordicism argues that the “ancient” Greeks were the “true” Greeks in contrast to the non-Nordic people of Greece today. This view is exemplified by the Austrian Hellenicist, Professor Fallmerayer, in the 1830s, who noted that “not a drop of pure Greek blood runs in the veins of modern Greeks…”.

Professor Jakob Phillip Fallmerayer (1790-1861)He promoted the thesis that ancient Greeks were predominantly blonde, like present-day Scandinavians and Northern Europeans. Fallmerayer’s writings, which could be construed as racist, state that the people of ancient and modern Greece have no relation. According to this thesis, ”ancient” Greeks were the “true” Greeks – these being wholly unrelated to the predominantly Mediterranean people of Greece today. Fallmerayer’s divergence from reality is illustrated by the fact that he never visited Greece during his lifetime. This is identical to a select number of contemporary historians who wish to re-write the history of Cyrus the Great, yet are unable to speak or read  modern Persian

To this day, Fallmerayer is recalled with bitterness and derision in Greece. It is worth noting that Fallmerayer never set foot in Greece in his entire lifetime. For further discussion on these issues you may wish to read:

Title: Guide to Peoples of Europe, (especially pages 207-216), Author: Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Published: Times Books, Date: 1994, ISBN: 0-7320-0624-5

Fallmerayer’s analysis of Greece is not entirely correct. While true that the Ottoman Turks ruled Greece for 400 years and that previous Byzantine rulers (e.g. Emperor Nikopherous) had to import colonists from present day south Italy to help repopulate parts of Greece ravaged by wars, many of these “Italian” colonists were themselves ancient Greek, settled in regions such as Calabria and Southern France since the times of Darius the Great and earlier. In any event, there has always been a strong and predominant Greek element in areas such as the Peloponnesos.

As for the lack of mainstream Nordiscism in modern Greece, this has to do with the history of ancient Greece itself. Mainland Greece was already settled with indigenous Mediterranean peoples, such as the ancient Minoans, before the arrival of the Classical Greeks. Ancient Greece, like today, was a mixture of Mediterranean and “blonde” peoples.

This leads to a very crucial question: why were no Greek actors selected to portray classical Greeks such as Alexander, Hephaestion, Ptolemy I, Olympias, King Phillip II, Cassander or Antiginous? For a review of the cast, click here…


Israeli actor, Raz Degan who portrays Darius III. Predictably, Fox’s Darius III is virtually a cartoon-like character with no in-depth interpretation of who he could have been as a person or king.

If one were to use Classical Greek works of art (vases and statues specifically) as a standard for prototypical Greek physical appearance, one can then easily find a plethora of modern Greek actors and actresses today who can portray ancient Greeks. It is interesting as to why Oliver Stone did not select Hollywood actors of Greek descent or from mainland Greece.

Oliver Stone goes further however. Colin Farrell, a dark haired Irish actor, who plays Alexander, is portrayed literally, as a bleached blonde.

The notion of Alexander being Flaxen-haired or blonde is itself a matter of considerable doubt if not strong dispute. As noted by my friend George Tsonis, a Greek-Canadian and a scholar of Greek, Roman and Persian history, the Greek word for Alexander’s complexion is “Xanthenein” (fair). This description simply marks Alexander’s complexion as being fairer than the other Greeks of his time. Yes, he was relatively fair, but not necessarily flaxen-blonde in the Nordicist sense.

From the Tufts University Lexicon “Xanthenein” is roughly translated as fair or a yellowish-brown color. A related term, “Xanthizo”, can also be to “make yellow” or “brown”. No wonder there is confusion!

Plutarch, whom most western scholars rely on for their references, does not actually describe Alexander’s hair color, only his complexion. This is a quote from Aelian on the hair; below is the Anglisized Greek from Cyrillic and the English translation below that:

Alexandron de ton Filippou apragmonos oraion legousi genesthai’ tin men gar komin anasesyrthai afto, xanthin de einai’“ 
Alexander the son of Philip is reported to have possessed a natural beauty: his hair was wavy and fair“ 
Varia Historae, 12.14

To see the debates raging about Alexander’s true appearance consult the following discussion panel (click here…

A very non-Nordic portrayal of Alexander is evident in the Pompei Mosaic. It is agreed by a majority of scholars that the painting is a faithful rendition of an original Hellenistic painting of the 3rd century BC. As you will witness in the painting below, this Hellenic-Roman version of Alexander is very different from the contemporary Hollywood fantasy interpretation (see images below):

Re-writing History: the historical Alexander as portrayed by the Pompei mosaic (3rd century BC)(left) and Dr. Fox’s 2004 Eurocentrist interpretation of Alexander and ancient Greeks (right). Thanks in large part to Dr. Lane’s historical advising, tno Greek actors of note were hired to portray historical Greeks. Ancient Greeks were simply “Nordified” in the movie, meaning they are portrayed as fair-complexted Northern Europeans rather than Mediterraneans and/or southern Europeans. Arab and North African extras were overwhelmingly used to portray ancient Iranians – again a result of Dr. Fox’s Eurocentirst views of the ancient world.

What the Alexander movie Alexander (under Fox’s tutelage) has demonstrated is that:

a) Historians can be biased and insist on viewing history through a narrow viewpoint

b) the role of Eurtocentricism in both academia, media and entertainment

The role of Dr. Fox is vividly highlighted in a book he wrote in 2005, one year after the release of the Alexander picture:

Title: The making of Alexander: The Official Guide to the Movie “Alexander”, Author: Robert Lane Fox, Publisher: R & L, Date: 2005, ISBN-10: 0951139215, ISBN-13: 978-0951139219

Fox’s book not only highlights the fact that he was a consultant to the movie, but that he also acted as one of the members of Alexander’s Companion cavalry.  In the strict psychological sense, Dr. Fox appears to be “acting out” his version of history. This also entails the Eurocentirst view of ancient Iran as the nebulous, Oriental, irrational, backward and untrustworthy  ”Other”.

The Pompei painting challenges the notion of Alexander being blonde. Nevertheless, a number of western scholars remain determined to push forward an image of Alexander that may be false. There are scholars who are actually convinced that the Pompei mosaic is proof of Alexander’s Nordic blondeness!

Even in allowing for poor reproductions, the mosaic clearly shows a ‘brown’ haired person with a Mediterranean or modern Iranian profile. Many Greek and Iranian people today have auburn-brown hair, which can appear to be somewhat “blonde” in sunlight.

Not fitting into Dr. Fox’s “audience expectations”: Iranian actor Mohammad Reza Golzar who is virtually unknown in mainstream Hollywood.  Iranian actors as well as Arabs from countries such as Lebanon, Syria etc. who appear Caucasian are often discriminated against in Hollywood as they do not fit the so-called “Middle East stereotype”.

The point from the Greek perspective however, is not simply whether Alexander was blonde or not. After all, the Dorian Greeks were blonde as a rule, just as the Indo-European settlers of ancient Iran were as well. The issue is that of using the notion of blondeness to project a specifically non-Greek Nordic west European image. Irrespective of whether Alexander was blonde or not, he represented the culture of ancient Greece, which is not necessarily the same as that of modern Western Europe.

Ancient Greece and Rome, as we will note again further below, were Mediterranean empires, very different from the inhabitants of interior and northern Europe. The peoples of western and eastern Europe were very different from the Classical Greeks in culture, language and temperament. To obtain an introduction to the history of the northern Europeans, you may wish to read:

D. Rankin. Celts and the Classical World. London: Routledge, 1996. ISBN: 0-415-15090-6
A. Ferrill. The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation. Thames & Hudson, 1986. ISBN: 0500274959

The “Europeans” adopted a great deal of their civilization and identity from the Greeks and the Romans. Even the name “Europe” is derived from the ancient Greek term “Oropia”. It may not be an exaggeration to state the following: with their adoption of Greco-Roman culture, west European scholars in particular, have essentially affected a “Nordic makeover” of the ancient Greeks and Romans. 

As Western culture has adopted the mantle of ancient Greece, it has also adopted Alexander as its own son; to the point that Alexander and ancient Greece are viewed as identical with ancient Western Europe and Scandinavia.

The Nordicising of favourite historical figures does not end with Alexander. Jesus Christ, is frequently portrayed as a slightly built, tall blonde Nordic man. Jesus or Jeshua, was a Jew from West Asia who spoke Aramaic. It is now acknowledged by a number of researchers that much of what we accept as the “appearance” of Jesus is not altogether accurate. Jesus would most likely have resembled a modern Fertile Crescent Arab or Jew from places such as Jerusalem, Amman, Hebron, Damascus or Basra. Scientists have recently reconstructed the image of Christ as he would have most likely appeared in his lifetime in ancient Palestine and Judea (see photo below):

The reconstruction that you witnessed above is very different from the icons we are used to seeing in the churches and Christian arts of Northwestern Europe. How many images have you seen in North American or Western European churches that show the Aramaic Christ?

It would seen that, like Alexander, the “real image” of Jesus has shifted in accordance with politics, ideology, dogma and popular culture over the centuries. Interestingly, many cultures across the world today interpret Jesus’ physical appearance in accordance with their own anthropomorphic image (for more on this click here…)

It appears that Hollywood has successfully associated a certain physical appearance with modernity, progress, success and rationalism. By implication, that which is not of that “certain look” is in danger of being associated with all that is the antithesis of that. With this logic, historical reality is bent to fit a manufactured reality: a fantasy.

(4) Greek or Macedonian?

This movie contains a number of concerns to Greeks in particular, such as Macedonia being “different” from the rest of Greece, a very contested issue in the Balkans these days. Although not generally reported, the government of Greece, which had originally supported the Alexander picture, withdrew its funding and support for Oliver Stone’s project (for more on this click here…)

There was to have been co-operation between Stone and the Greek government, but this was apparently changed when the details of the script became known (see also (5) below).

To be honest, I was left confused as to whether the Macedonians were Greek or not. This may be an attempt to placate those who view Macedonia as “different” from Greece, not unlike those who try to argue that Kurds and Azerbaijanis are unrelated to Iranians.

The Greeks, like the Iranians today, are now confronted with having to defend their historical heritage against those who have territorial claims against their nation. The Oliver Stone picture, in my opinion, does not clearly define Macedonians as Greeks.

In addition to these concerns, many Greeks are offended by the bisexual portrayal of Alexander. There were rumors in 2004 that many Greek associations had plans to sue Oliver Stone.

Again, ancient Greek terminology and its translations by western scholars may have played a role in the “bisexual” interpretation of Alexander. We have already seen how the term “Xanthenein” has been stretched to paint a “Scandinavian” Alexander.

(5) The Portrayal of Roxanna and the Perpetuation of the “Hollywood Persian”

Many iranians have found the portrayal of Roxanna insulting. This portrayal has again been defined by the aforementioned Professor Fox, whose portrayal of Roxanna indicates a lack of knowledge of Iran’s anthropological history.

The portrayal of ancient Iranians is outright comical, if not insulting. The inaccurate Hollywood portrayal of Iranians is exemplified by the selection of Rosario Dawson:

Dr. Robin Fox’s Roxanna: Rosario Dawson 

Rosario Dawson is a very talented, beautiful and intelligent Peurto-Rican actress, who was cast to star as Roxanna, an ancient Iranian queen from Soghdia-Bactria.

Roxanna however, was not black or Hispanic in appearance, anymore than Alexander was Scandinavian. Having Rosario Dawson portrayed as Roxanna makes as much sense as having Lucy Liu, an Asian-American, portraying Queen Victoria of Great Britain.

The term Roxanna is derived from Old Iranian “Rokh-shwan” or “face (Ruksh) – fair skinned-shiny (shwan)”. Roxanna was related to a North Iranian tribe known later as the Sarmatians, the remnants who survive in the Caucasus and Russia as the Ossetians (ancient Alans or Ard-Alans).

North Iranian girl from Rasht. Photograph taken in 1971 by Ali Massoudi of a girl from Rasht in Gilan province, Northern Iran (Source: R. Tarverdi (Editor) & A. Massoudi (Art editor), The land of Kings, Tehran: Rahnama Publications, 1971, p.116). Note that Roxanna is derived from Old Iranian “Rokh-shwan” or “face (Ruksh) – fair skinned-shiny (shwan)”.

Roman sources such as Pliny repeatedly describe ancient North Iranian peoples such as the Alans and Seres as “…flaxen (blonde) haired blue eyed nomads…” (see Wilcox, p.19). Rosario Dawson does not fit the description of an ancient Iranian woman, especially from Northern Iranian stock. The Ossetians of today, descendants of ancient Northern Iranians, predominantly resemble northern Iranians and Europeans and speak an archaic Iranian language (like the Avesta of the Zoroastrians). Blondism is very common among these descendants of ancient North Iranians in cities such as Beslan and Vladikafkaz. It can be argued that Roxanna was a brunette, however, she was of Northern Iranian stock, which would still make her very different from actress Rosario Dawson.

There are plenty of talented actresses of Iranian descent in North America alone that would well fit the historical Roxanna. Oliver Stone could have just as easily selected an Iranian actress, however he relied on the historical “expertise” of Professor Fox. The question that can be addressed to Professor Fox is this: what makes Rosario Dawson so representative of Iranian women and Roxanna in particular? Is the Professor aware of the anthropology and history of ancient Iran as it was at 333 BC?

More puzzling is the design of Roxanna’s costume in the movie. Note the photo showing the marriage of Alexander to Roxanna. Roxanna appears to wear a Burka-like veil constructed of strips of metallic mesh in which the face is partly hidden. See the photo

Roxanna in the movie

Fox’s personal view of ancient Iranian women. Note how Fox has placed a strange metal-strip-like face guard on Roxanna, almost identical to the clothes the modern-day Taliban or the Wahhabis impose on women. It is not clear how Fox is making the jump between the present, the post-Classical and Medieval Islamic era and ancient times. One possible explanation is that Fox’s choice of costume for Roxanna is propelled by Eurocentrist views. 

The headgear is partly correct if we base the costume on the Saka Paradraya Iranian speaking tribes of the present-day Ukraine (8-4th centuries BC). The decorations on the headgear are simply wrong and Iranian queens did not wear face masks of any type. For a discussion of the Saka Paradrya, known in the west as Scythians, consult:

Author: E.V. Cernenko, Title:  The Scythians 700-300 BC, Publisher: OspreyPublishing, Date: 1989, ISBN: 0850454786

See colour plate F from the above book shown below:

A reconstruction by Cernenko and Gorelik of the north-Iranian Saka or Scythians in battle (Cernenko & Gorelik, 1989, Plate F). The ancient Iranians (those in ancient Persia and the ones in ancient Eastern Europe) often had women warriors and chieftains, a practice not unlike those of the contemporary ancient Celts in ancient Central and Western Europe. What is also notable is the costume of the Iranian female warrior – this type of dress continues to appear in parts of Luristan in Western Iran.  it is clear that Dr. Fox has simply invented his own version of ancient Iranian female dress.

Once you have consulted Professor’s Cernenko’s book, it will be evident how flawed the costume design is, not to mention the colors. None of the reconstructions by Professor Gorelik, which Cernenko has consulted, show any type of face masks for ancient Iranian women. Ancient Iranian women, who were found in military, religious and political leadership roles, simply did not wear such attire during courtship, marriage or everyday duties. Already as noted before, Fox has chosen to be extremely selective as to his “vision” of Iranian women – note the picture of the Iranian woman from Luristan, a region with a strong Scythian (North Iranian) heritage:

Iranian woman from the Luristan region of Western Iran. Lur women were known for their combat and equestrian skills well up to the post-Islamic times  of Karim Khan Zand.

It is not clear why Professor Fox has chosen a Burka-like face mask for Roxanna at Alexander’s wedding. Variants of this face mask are present in Afghanistan today, mainly the result of former Taliban rule and very conservative Pashtoon tribal society, which very strongly identifies itself with the culture of ancient Arabia.

Perhaps even more disturbing is Fox’s Eurocentrist portrayal of Iranian women as passive pawns in society – historically and culturally this is pure myth. Readers are invited to witness the picture below: 


Iranian women from Malayer (near Hamedan in the northwest) engaged in target practice in the Malayer city limits in the late 1950s.  The association between weapons and women is nothing new in Iran; Roman references for example note of Iranian women armed as regular troops in the armies of the Sassanians (224-651 AD). Western media and Eurocentrist academics have worked hard to block such images from appearing in mainstream Western culture.

Even more interesting is the “Arabian Nights” portrayal of an Achaemenid harem. Harems certainly existed in Persia and the later Roman and Byzantine courts, however the specifically “Arabian” appearance accorded to the Achaemenids is simply consistent with the Hollywood tradition of portraying Iranians as Arabs.

Iranian acresses Saye Yabandeh who was a winner at the 11th Annual Beverly Hills Film Festival of 2011(left) and Nazanin Afshin-Jam (right) an international model and actress, 2003 Miss World Canada winner and ranked second in Miss World contest in 2003. Despite the large pool of highly intelligent, educated and talented Iranian actresses , Hollywood often discriminates against these, especially when producing “historical” or “true story” pictures related to Iran and/or Iranians.  

For more on the Iranian women in history and culture consult:

Interestingly, the movie portrays the “Persians” with Arabian styles of music and dance. This portrayal is not based on factual information; it is a Hollywood portrayal. From the scant evidence that exists, we do know that one of the Persian styles of dance strongly resembled the dances of the Kurds of today; a style also seen in western Turkey, Greece and the Balkans. As for music, we have no notes or scales from that period, and “Arab music” as we know it today simply did not exist at that time; it is a much later creation. Arabian music can trace its beginnings to the Bedouin tribes of Arabia – it later borrowing heavily of Sassanian and Greek scales (after the 7th century AD).

These errors are enough to question the historical accuracy of the Alexander picture. It seems that when it comes to Iranians and their identity, history is easily “re-written” for the benefit of popular entertainment.

As Professor Fox has duly noted in an interview interview with Archeology Today, the movie “could not totally depart from audiences’ expectations“. The “audience” (as defined by Fox) undoubtedly has “expectations” as to what Iranians “should” look like.

For a good introduction into the Indo-European arrivals into ancient Iran, you may wish to refer to:

Author: J.P. Mallory, Title: In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archeology and Myth, Publisher: London: Thames & Hudson, Date: 1989., ISBN: 0-500-27616-1

Read from the above Mallory book, pages: 9-23, 48-56, 78, 266-272. Related to this topic:

For color reconstructions of ancient Iranians see: 

Author: Peter Wilcox, Title: Rome’s Enemies (3): Parthians and Sassanid Persians, Publisher: OspreyPublishing, Date: 1986, ISBN: 0850456886 

Read also the book below:

Author: T. Newark,  Title: The Barbarians: warriors and Wars of the Dark Ages, Publisher: Concord Publications Company, Date: 1998, ISBN: 9623616341 

From the above book see Page 7 (the Saka – ancestors of today’s Lurs and Seistanis) and 30 (ancestors of the Ard-Alan). 

Iran today is very much a genetic tapestry that includes blondism in Northern and Western Iran (e.g. Parsabad, or Talysh), as well as among Iranian peoples such as Lurs, Azeris, Mazandaranis, Kurds and Boyer-Ahmadis. Iran is also home to Arabians in Khuzistan and the Persian Gulf coast, Asiatic Turcomens in the Northeast, as well as the Baluchis near Pakistan, who have a strong Elamo-Dravidian admixture. You may wish to read the very thorough and precise compendium of Iranian peoples today below:

Title: The Archaeology of Western Iran: Settlement and Society from Prehistory to the Islamic Conquest , Editor: F. Hole, Publisher: Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Institution Press, Date: 1987, ISBN: 0874745268 

See also the below volume:

Title:  The Cambridge History of Iran: Volume 1, The Land of Iran, Editor: W. B. Fisher, Publisher: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Date: 2004, ISBN: 0521069351 

These books (especially the Cambridge History of Iran series) will provide a more informed and less misleading analysis of Iran’s anthropological history than that shown in the Alexander movie.

As seen in this commentary, Hollywood portrayals of Iranians are in stark contrast to reality. Greek and Roman references to classical Iranians do not refer to them as different in the “physical” sense; differences lay mainly in manner of government, philosophy and to a lesser extent, mythology. The Azadan nobility of the Parthian and Sassanian Savaran (elite cavalry), more than 500 years later than Alexander, are described by Peter Wilcox as “…very similar to the Celts…strikingly similar to Northwest Europeans…” (p.6). There are still many short stories in Southern Italy today which accurately portray the temperament and appearance of the Persians as they would have appeared in antiquity.

Concluding Notes

Despite the powerful historical revisionism of a number of mainly northwest European historians such as Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) or the aforementioned Fallmerayer, the Greco-Roman world and Persia have profoundly influenced each other in areas such as architecture, the arts and crafts, the sciences and medicine, mythology, military and engineering technologies.

While true that one can find a number of anti-Persian references in Greco-Roman sources, these were in the context of wars that broke out between these powers. A perfect example of this is how the movie explicitly shows Aristotle deriding the Persians as inferior to the Greeks. Modern Greeks place this in context and see Aristotle as expressing the political climate of his day. Iranians are very well liked and respected in Greece and are seen as the heirs of a great civilization. Alexander himself came to greatly appreciate the Iranians and their culture. It is a shame that the movie did not show Alexander as paying homage to the tomb of Cyrus the Great.

As noted previously, numbers of Greco-Roman historians were prepared to acknowledge and highly praise the Persians (e.g. Xenophon, Plutarch, etc.). Today’s popular culture, education systems and movie entertainment industries in particular, seem to be providing a very selective and distorted view of Persia with respect to antiquity. Many are simply not aware (or wish not be aware) of Persia’s importance and status in antiquity let alone her major contributions to world civilization.

Ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians had much more in common with each other than with the relatively unsophisticated Celtic and Germanic peoples who were roaming the Northern European forests. For an incisive discussion of these little discussed topics consult:

Title: Calabria, L’enigma Delle Arti Asittite: Nella Calabria Ultramediterranea, Author: Nik Spatari, Publisher: Italy: MUSABA, Date: 2003, ISBN: 8887935300

The above book by Spatari has not been translated from Italian to English. Still an excellent read, especially with the illustrations. See also:

Title: In Search of Zarathustra: The First prophet and the Ideas that Changed the World, Author: Paul Kriwaczek, Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Date: 2003, ISBN: 0297646222 

 It would be interesting to see blockbuster movies of Shapur I (241-272) who defeated three Roman emperors in his lifetime and destroyed a third of Rome’s armies. Even more dramatic would be to see movies made of the life and times of figures such as Zarathustra, Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great, General Shahrbaraz, Mani, Mazdak, Babak, Abu Ali Sina, Omar Khayyam, Shah Ismail and Nader Shah.

Books by Rouben Galichian


Rouben Galichian was born in Tabriz, Iran, to a family of immigrant Armenians who had fled Van in 1915 to escape the Genocide, and who arrived in Iran via Armenia, Georgia and France. After attending school in Tehran, Rouben obtained a degree in Engineering from the University of Aston, Birmingham in 1963.

Rouben Galichian has written numerous books outlining the history and cartography of the Caucasus. He is also the author of a number of cartographic articles published in various magazines and has lectured extensively in Europe, the USA, Iran and Armenia. For his services to Armenian historical cartography, Rouben was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia in November of 2008. In 2009 he was the recipient of “Vazgen I” cultural achievements medal. He is married and shares his time between London and Yerevan.

Rouben’s interest in geography and cartography started early in life and began seriously studying this subject sine the 1970s. In 1981 he moved to London with his family, where he had access to a huge variety of cartographic material. His books are described below

Historic Maps of Armenia: The Cartographic Heritage (I. B Tauris, London, 2004) [see Amazon]. Galichian’s first book which contains a collection of world maps and maps of the Caucasus over a period of 2600 years, as seen by various mapmakers. Galichian collected these rare maps from various libraries from all over the world. This book became a bestseller in 2005. For more information on this text click here…

Note that expanded versions of the above book have been published (in Russian, Armenian [Printinfo Art Books, 2005], and English. The Russian translation of the book is available below in pdf:

Мифологизация истории: Азербайджан, Армения,вымыслы и факты

Galichian’s third book, is also laden with valuable historical information:

“Countries South of the Caucasus in Medieval Maps: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan” (Gomidas Institute, London, 2007) [see Amazon]. This text provides analytical historical-geographical information of this area for readers in the EU. For more information on this text click here…

Galichian’s fourth and most recent book is:

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]. Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Showcasing of Imagination (second, revised and expanded edition) (see Amazon). London/Yerevan 2010:  Gomitas Institute & Printinfo Art Books. This book is also available in pdf – click here…

The above book documents the native Armenian pedigree in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh through the centuries. The text is also of interest as it exposes the Republic of Azerbaijan or ROA [known as Arran until May 1918 – distinct from the historical Azerbaijan in Iran’s northwest] falsifications in historical and cultural fields.

Galichian has completed another work dedicated to exposing the ROA’s falsifications of history, culture etc. The book draft is in Armenian but is to be transated into English. The work shall be entitled along the lines of “Historico-geographical Falsifications of Azerbaijan“. The book has alreayd been translated into Russian.

In the work Galichian shall discuss the following:

  •  Manner, reason and need for the Baku establishment to engage in falsifications
  •  Reason for claiming and appropriating others’ (especially Iranian) cultures
  • Baku’s claims about the Armenians being newcomers in the Caucasus and claiming 5000 years of historic heritage for Turkic-speakers in the Caucasus.
  • Analysis of 40 maps produced over the 2000 years, with particular reference to Islamic maps.
  • Identity of Albanians (ancient settlers of modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan) versus the real historical Azeris of iran
  • Short discussion on Azeri and Azerbaijani-Turkish language
  • Psychological factors etc.

Galichian demonstrates that historical Azerbaijan has always been a province of ancient Iran (Media) and not the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan, which was thus named in May 1918. will release more information on this upcoming text as soon as it goes to print.

Nazrin Mehdiyova a historian from the Republic of Azarbaijan (ROA), has noted that

“…for the purpose of breaking Azerbaijan’s historical links with Iran… Soviet authorities falsified documents and re-wrote history books…” (Mehdiyova, 2003, p.280).

The policy of re-writing history books and falsifying documents has continued to the present day by the Baku authorities.

Despite the historical facts, a number of historical revisionist views are officially taught as “history” at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels of the educational system in the Republic of Azarbaijan (Former Arran as opposed to historical Azarbaijan in Iran).

It is also no secret that the teaching of history in the Republic of Azarbaijan is distorted with respect to its Iranian historical ties and legacy:

سرنوشت غمبار تاریخ جمهوری آذربایجان اران در بیخبری ما + لینک دانلود فیلم

Even children’s textbooks in Baku have became a major medium for the transmission of ethno-nationalist  propaganda. For more on this topic consult a recent textbook entitled “Ata Yurdu” now being taught in Baku’s schools:

تبلیغات ضد ایرانی در کتابهای درسی رژیم حاکم بر باکو!-[Anti-Iranian propaganda in school textbooks printed by the current regime of Baku]

The Ata Yurdu textbook is replete with historical falsifications such as the following:

1) The treaty of Golestan and Turkmenchai which Iran was forced to sign after her defeats by Russia) are re-narrated as having resulted in the “division of the independent kingdom of Azarbaijan by Iran and Russia”. This is false as (a) no independent Azarbaijan entity existed (b) historical Azarbaijan is in Iran below the Araxes River; the territories to the north were not known as “Azarbaijan” – these were known as Arran/Albania and the Khanates (c) the territories of the Caucasus ceded to Russia had historically elonged to Iran

2) Shah Ismail is narrated as the founder of the “Independent kingdom of azarbaijan” which is historically false. Ismail specifically re-asserted the sovereignty of the Iranian state and adopted the Persian title “Shah” instead of “Khan“.

3) The book also falsifies information on living persons. Shahyar, an iranian azarbaijani, is introduced as a “pan-Azarbaijani nationalist” when in fact the same Shahyar has written several verses praising Iran.

History books are now being published for mass distribution at the international level. The textbook, “A Short History of Azerbaijan”, written by Yagub Mahmudlu and printed by the embassy of the Republic of Azarbaijan in Pakistan, is one such example.

The book “A Short History of Azerbaijan” by Yagub Mahmudlu of Baku has essentially engaged in the rehabilitation of former Communist and pan-Turkist propaganda. The book contains a large number of historical distortions and falsified maps.

The Mahmudlu book pretends that neither Iranian Azarbaijan nor Arran (modern Republic of Azarbaijan) were ever a part of Iran in history. The historical claims in the book are surprising due to their fantastically revisionist claims. Almost every single point in this book is either falsified or distorted.

The notion of a “Greater Azarbaijan” is promoted at the official level by the Baku authorities (apolicy first promoted by the former Soviet Union). As noted by the aforementioned historian, Nazrin Mehdiyova the falsification of history has led to:

“…the myth [of a North versus South Azarbaiajn ] became deeply ingrained in the population [of the Republic of Azarbaijan] and was adopted by the PFA [Popular Front of Azerbaijan] as part of the rhetoric.”  Mehdiyova, 2003, p.280).

Mahmudlu’s aforementioned book for example completely ignores the region’s long-standing associations with Iran and re-writes history to promote the “Greater Azarbaijan” myth – note one of the book’s maps below:

A historically false map of an alleged “Greater Azarbaijan” during the Arab Caliphate. Historically all contemporary sources clearly distinguish between the real-historical Azarbaijan which is cited as being south of the Araxes River in northwest Iran versus Arran or Albania located to the north of the Araxes River. There are no maps or references that cite ancient Arran in the Caucasus aboves the Araxes River as “Azarbaijan”.

As noted by the aforementioned Nazrin Mehdiyova:

“…the myth [of a North versus South Azerbaijan] was invented under the Soviets for the purpose of breaking Azerbaijan’s historical links with Iran….(Mehdiyova, 2003, p.280).

Shireen T. Hunter (see 1994, p.11) had earlier raised the alarm that the myth of a “divided Greater Azarbaijan” between Czarist Russia and Qajar Iran after the Golestan (1826) and Turkmenchai (1828) treaties had become a major mainstay of the newly independent Republic of Azarbaijan (following the collapse of the Soviet Union by the early 1990s).

It is interesting that another western historian, Blum (2007, pp.106) clearly reports that modern-day Baku:

“…boasts a well-established official national identity …there has been little historical basis for national identity formation among Azeri elites, who were significantly affected by Russification …”.

There are even pan-Turk essayists from Baku who are forced to acknowledge these facts. One case is Nazim Dadasov who admits that

“…If we look back to the history it will be very difficult to find the term “Azeri nation”. Historians have begun to use this term only during Soviet Union period”.

You can corroborate this at: Dadasov, Nazim, “What is Azeri Nation”, March 26, 2008, posted on-line at International Research Club website (click here).

Dadasov however is very biased. He explains the Soviet policy as having been in place to separate Arran-Albania from Turkey- he makes no mention that Arran was Iranian territory until relatively recently in the early 19th century. Once again, readers may be surprised to learn that a significant number of the modern-day inhabitants of Arran-Albania are unaware of their nation’s links with Iran.

On this point, let us return to the modern-day educational policies of the Republic of Azarbaijan or Arran-Albania. Below is a Baku-government sponsored video animation (Azerbaijan Tarihi (Tarix)) showing a mythical “Greater” Azarbaijan being divided into a “Southern” and “Northern” Azarbaijan by Iran and Russia in the early 19th century (clock on picture to see the video):



A post-Soviet era propaganda map produced in Baku. The above map (click on the above map to see the video) promotes the false notion that a “Greater Azerbaijan” was divided in two by Russia and Iran in 1828. Historically false claims such as these were first promoted by the pan-Turkists of the early 20th century which were then propagated by the former Soviet Union and the Communists, notably Joseph Stalin and Mirjaafar Baguirov. Unfortunately the legacy of historical amnesia has continued to persist at the official level in the Caucasian state.

As noted by Professor Roy [Roy, O., The New Central Asia, I.B. Tauris, 2007] with respect to those territories situated above the Araxes abive the historical Azarbaijan province in Iran:

 ”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, 2007, p. 18]

Note also Professor Kaufman [Kaufman, S., Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War, Cornell University Press, 2001] who has observed that:

In fact, the very name “Azerbaijani” was not widely used until the 1930s; before that Azerbaijani intellectuals were unsure whether they should call themselves Caucasian Turks, Muslims, Tatars, or something else” [Kaufman, 2001, p. 56].

Historical archives completely contradict what is essence post-Soviet (and pan-Turkist inspired) ethno-nationalist propaganda (and maps).  Note a European map of 1805 below, just before the wars in which Russia conquered Iran’s Caucasian territories – note that there is no such entity as a “Azarbaijan kingdom” or “Greater Azarbaijan”. In fact all of modern day Republic of Azarbaijan were simply khanates which were part of the Iranian state.

Map of Iran in 1805 before the invasions of Czarist Russia. Note the Caucasus, north of Iran and along the eastern Caspian littoral, which was Iranian territory. There was no “Greater Azarbaijan”  supposedly “divided” between Iran and Russia. Russia invaded Iran and forced her to cede the Caucasus.   Iran also lost important eastern territories such as Herat, which broke away with British support, Picture source from CAIS.

The number of historical distortions on this subject has become so large that debunking these would require volumes of textbooks.  On the other hand these falsifications are easy to dismiss with just a few sources. As we have already noted, no such “Southern” and “Northern” Azarbaijan entities are reported by native Caucasian sources, or European (i.e. Russian and British) sources.  It is a sad fact that Elchibey went to his grave believing the historical fabrications of the Soviet Communist state, not to mention the falsifications made by the Tsars and pan-Turk activists.

But what of the post-Elchibey era today? This is a more complex question as “officially” Baku and Tehran are on cordial terms. But one must look at the large picture as Baku is a close ally of Tel Aviv and Western lobbies – a vast topic which we need to discuss in a separate question.

There are numerous references that can be produced to dismiss Mahmudlu’s Communist and pan-Turk inspired claims. Below is an actual map drafted during the Arab caliphates which reveal the historical Azarbaijan being in Iran and distinct from Arran (modern Republic of Azarbaijan), thereby revelaing the deliberate forgery seen in  Mahmudlu’s map:

A map drawn by Ibn Hawqal (ابن حوقل) during the Arab caliphates which shows the clear distinction between Arran (north east Caucasus just above Araxes), Armenia (north/northwest Caucasus just above Araxes River) and Azarbaijan inside Iran and below the Araxes River. Ibn-Hawqal:clearly cited the Araxes River as the southern limit of Arran.

ابن حوقل نیز طبق نقشه ای که از سه سرزمین ارمنستان، آذربایجان و اران ارائه کرده است ، رود ارس را مرز میان آذربایجان و اران دانسته و هنگام بحث از شهرهای اران ، از بردعه ، جنزه ( گنجه ) شمکور ( شامخور ) ، تفلیس ، برزنج ، شماخیه ( شماخی ) ، شروان ، شاوران ، قبله و شکی ، نام برده ، اما شهرهای اردبیل ، دَه خرقان (دهخوارقان) ، تبریز ، سلماس ، خوی ، برکری ، ارمیه ( ارومیه ) ، مراغه ، اشنه ( آشنویه ) ، میانج ( میانه ) ، مرند و برزند را جزو شهرهای آذربایجان دانسته است .
جهانگرد معروف دیگر ابوعبدالله بشار مقدسی ، ضمن جدا دانستن آذربایگان و ارآن ، درباره محدوده جغرافیایی و شهرهای اران چنین نوشته است :
« اران سرزمینی است جزیره مانند ، میانه دریای خزر و رود ارس ، نهرالمَلِک ( رود کُر ) از طول آن را قطع می کند . مرکز آن بردعه است و شهرهای آن عبارتند از تفلیس قلعه ، خنان ، شمکور ( شامخور ) ، جنزه ( گنجه ) ، بردیج ، شماخی ، شروان ، باکویه ( باکو ) ، شابران ، دربند ، قبله ، شکی ، ملازگرد

Here are more examples of the Arran-Azarbaijan distinction made by islamic and medieval era cartographers and historians:

The Hodud-ol-Alam Text (10th century AD): Cites the Araxes River as the northern limit of Azerbaijan.

Ibn Khordadbeh (ابن خردادبه): Clear distinction between Arran and Azarbaijan

ابن خردادبه از اران و آذربایگان به طور جداگانه نام می برد و ضمن شرح شهرها و روستاهای آذربایجان ، نام شهرها و شهرکهایی را آورده که تماماً در جنوب رود ارس واقعند . اما از اران ، تفلیس ، بردعه ( بردع ) و بیلقان ( بیلگان ) ، قبله و شروان جداگانه نام برده و افزوده است که شهرستان های اران و جزو آن ( گرجستان ) و سیسجان جزو بلاد خزر بودند که نوشیروان به تصرف آورد . ابن فقیه مرز آذربایجان را از یک سو رود ارس و از سوی دیگر مرز زنجان و حدود دیلمستان و طرم ( طارم ) و گیلان دانسته است . و از شهرهای آذربایجان به این شرح نام می برد : « برکَری ، سلماس ، موقان ( مغان) ، خوی ، ورثان ( وردان ) ، مراغه ، نیریز » تبریز ، شاپور خواست ، برزه ، خونه ، میانه ، مرند ، خوی ، کولسره و برزند . . . »

Al-Muqaddasi (10th Century AD): Divided Persia into eight regions which include both Azerbaijan and Arran. Defines Arran as being situated between the Caspian Sea and the Araxes River.

Yaqut Al-Hamavi (13th Century AD) (یاقوت حمودی، ): Defines Arran and Azerbaijan as distinct territories with the Araxes River forming the boundary between them. Arran defined as north and west of the Araxes, with Azerbaijan to the south of the River

یاقوت حمودی، در کتاب معروف «معجم البلدان» درباره این نواحی چنین می‌نویسد:
«اران نامی است ایرانی، دارای سرزمینی فراخ و شهرهای بسیار که یکی از آنها جنزه (گنجه) است و این همان است که مردم آن را گنجه گویند . میان آذربایجان و اران رودی است که آن را ارس گویند . آنچه در شمال و مغرب این رود نهاده است از اران و آنچه در سوی جنوب قرار گرفته است ، از آذربایجان است .

Borhan-e-Qate (فرهنگ برهان قاطع) (Completed 1602 or 1632 AD – during the safavid era): Aras (Araxes) defined as a river flowing past Tbilisi in Georgia and forming the boundary between Arran and Azerbaijan.

در فرهنگ برهان قاطع که محمد حسین بن خلف تبریزی آن را به سال 1602 هجری تألیف کرده است ، در شرح واژه ارس ، چنین می خوانیم :
« ارس ـ به فتح اول و ثانی و سکون سین بی نقطه نام رودخانه ای است مشهور که از کنار تفلیس و مابین آذربایجان و ارّان می گذرد .

Hamdollah Mostofi (حمداله مستوفی): makes a clear distinction between Arran and azarbaijan being divided by the Araxes River.

حمداله مستوفی نیز در کتاب مشهور نزهه القلوب ، از شهرهای آذربایجان یک به یک نام برده و میان دو رود ارس و کُرا اران و آن سوی رود کُر را شیروان می نامد .Abu al-Fadai Dameshqi (ابوالفدائ دمشقی): makes a clear distinction between Arran and azarbaijan being divided by the Araxes River.

ابوالفدائ دمشقی که چهل و شش سال بعد از درگذشت یاقوت به دنیا آمده و کتاب کم نظیر تقویم البلدان را در سال 721 به پایان آورده است به روشنی تمام می نویسد: « اران . . . اقلیمی است مشهور که هم مرز آذربایجان است » و بعد اضافه می کند : « ارمنستان و اران و آذربایجان سه سرزمین بزرگ اند جدا از هم که اهل فن آنها را در یک نقشه نشان می دهند.»

The same distinction in antiquity and pre-Islamic times is seen between Azarbaijan (in Iran) below the Araxes River versus Arran (in the Caucasus above the Araxes River with Strabo (64/63 BC-23 AD) who noted that the people of Iranian Azerbaijan (known as Media Atropatene at the time of Strabo) as Iranians with Persian as their language (Strabo, Geographica, see p. 17-18).

Another example is Arrian (92-c. 175 AD) who noted that the region north of the Araxes River is cited as “Albania” and south of the Araxes as “Media Atropatene”.

Sassanian emperor, Shapur I (r. 241-270 AD), cited Albania and Media Atropatene as two separate provinces of the Persian Empire. Professor Mark Whittow’s map of Oxford University clearly shows the historically attested distinction between ancient Arran/Albania and the original Azarbaijan in Iran. Note how the Araxes River separates Arran from the historical Azerbaijan (in Iran).

Suffice it to say that there has been no entity known as a “Greater Azarbaijan” either before or after the Islamic era.

Ottoman Map of Western Iran 1893-Osmanli_Ortadogu

Ottoman Map showing Iran in the Middle Ages (note that the map specifically states “Iran” in perso-Arabic script). The map also confirms that much of the Caucasus was Iranian territory and that Azarbaijan province in Iran is distinct from those Caucasian khanates (north of the Araxes), re-named in 1918 as “Republic of Azerbaijan”. Note that the Caucasian khanates (notably those areas now known as “Republic of Azarbaijan”) were part of Iran’s domains. The map (like all historical maps) makes clear that the so-called “Greater Azarbaijan state” (first promoted by the Soviets and now by Baku and its Western supporters) has never existed in history.

Pan-Arabism’s Legacy of Confrontation with Iran (Revised)

This article was originally written by Kaveh Farrokh in 2004. It was revised for on October 20, 2010. The 2004 version of this is available in pdf format and in Persian text (pdf) (this is a translation of the 2004 version).


Few Iranians (or westerners) have heard of Pan-Arab nationalists such as Satia Al-Husri, Sami Shawkat, Michel Aflaq or Khairallah Tulfah. Their version of Arab nationalism is as anti-Western as it is anti-Persian. The philosophies of these men have done much to inspire generations of Arab leaders such as Gamal Abdel Nasser, who passionately advocated the changing of the Persian Gulf to “A–b Gulf”, or Saddam Hussein, who defined his Arabism by the extent of his brutality against Iranians (Kurds, Persians, etc.).

Before we engage in this relatively long discussion of pan-Arabism and Arab chauvinism, let us (Iranians) remind ourselves, that we too have our faults and are not perfect. In fact, I have always found the attitudes of a number of Iranians against Arabs embarrassing and unfair. Nevertheless, I also find the hostile anti-Iranian attitudes and actions of the pan-Arabists shocking (you will read some of these in this commentary). As you read this article, please balance your feelings with how many of us Iranians are also embarrassingly chauvinist, with cultural expressions such as “uncouth Arab” or “Lizard eaters”.


Anti-Iran Pan-Turk Racialists in Tehran Azadi Stadium

Below is video of pan-Turk anti-Iran separatsts chanting anti-Iranian slogans in Tehran’s  Stadium – this was forwarded to on Friday, Aug 27, 2010 by Tara Farhid-Gallo. In the video below, pan-Turk activists:

  • Chant separatist sentiments for Azarbaijan.
  • Then in a strange twist, they chant “Urumieh is ours, A–b Gulf is yours“. This is strange as these activists are now adopting historically false pan-Arabist rhetoric in reference to the Persian Gulf.
  • They also flash the pan-Turk fascist salute and then howl like wolves in accordance with their philosophy of hailing from a mythical mythical Grey Wolf ancestor.

The above video is also startling in that nearly all of the activists are youths and young adults.

The fact that pan-Turk activists are so brazen at this time should come as no suprise to readers.

1) The dangers of pan-Turkism were warned as early as 1989 by Dr. Jalal Matini in the Iranshenasi Journal as early as 1989:

Matini, J. (1989). Azerbaijan Koja Ast? [Where is Azerbaijan?]. Iranshenasi: A Journal of Iranian Studies,  I (3), p.443-462.

2) Western scholarship also produced a book that outlined the dangers of pan-Turkism for Iran in 2004:

Olson, R. (2004). Turkey-Iran Relations, 1979-2004: Revolution, Ideology, War, Coups and Geopolitics. Costa Mesa, California: Costa Mesa.

3) The writer of this posting prodced an illustrated on-line book in 2005, again outling the dangers of pan-Turkism to Iran:

Pan-Turkism takes Aim at Azarbaijan: A Geopolitical Agenda (posted also ed at UN Association in Geneva– see also Citations of book also made in academic venues).

Much of the  activities of pan-Turk racialists have been tracked and documented for reference by For references to all information on the subject, readers are invited to consult this link:

Pan-Turkism or Pan-Altaism

Below are two examples of vandalism conducted by pan-Turk activists:

Pan-Turk activists engaging in book burnings of texts related to Cyrus the Great on December 19 2006. The photo was originally posted on pan-Turkist website, subsequently reported by Payman Pakmehr of Tabriz News. The photo was then withdrawn by the website.


Destruction of Achaemenid relief by anti-Cyrus vandals at Persepolis, December 6, 2006. Note that this was just 13 days before the book burnings by pan-Turks in Tabriz on December 19, 2006 (Report on December 23, 2006 by Maryam Tabeshian of CHN; and reported by Payvand news of iran).

Pan-Turkim is not some crude movement orchestrated by street thugs and boors. This is supported by certain parties motivated by economic-political interests. The plan was first unveiled in 1979 – a scheme known today as the “Bernard Lewis Plan:


A map of the Bernard Lewis Proposal (source: De Hoyos, L. (1985). Derivative Assassination: Who Killed Indira Ghandi? New York: New Benjamin Franklin House). Note how Iran is now renamed as “Persia” or “Iranistan”. This was first unveiled in 1979.

There are clear references to this plan by Western scholars:

As noted by Engdahl (2004, p.171), the Bernard Lewis proposes that the west

“…encourage autonomous groups such as the Kurds…Ethiopian Copts… Azerbaijanis…”  Engdahl, W. (2004). A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. London: Pluto Press.

Dreyfus and LeMarc (1980, p. 157-158) provide a very succinct summary of the plan’s methodology:

“According to Lewis, the British should encourage rebellions for national autonomy by the minorities such as the Lebanese Druze, Baluchis, Azerbaiajni Turks, Syrian Alawites, the Copts of Ethiopia, Sudanese mystical sects, Arabian tribes…the goal is the break-up of the Middle East into a mosaic of competing ministates and the weakening of the sovereignty of existing republics and kingdoms…spark a series of breakaway movements by Iran’s Kurds, Azeris, baluchis, and Arabs…these independence movements, in turn would represent dire threats to Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and other neighbouring states.” [Dreyfus and LeMarc, Hostage. 1980, p.157-158. New York: New Benjamin Franklin House Publishing Company.]

Readers are also referred to:

Creating an “Arc of Crisis”: The Destabilization of the Middle East and Central Asia The Mumbai Attacks and the “Strategy of Tension” – by Andrew Gavin Marshall

In addition, the Bernard Lewis Plan has been “fine tuned” in recent years by Ralph Peters. The map below was published in an article entitled “Blood Borders: How a better Middle East would Look” which appeared in the June 2006 issue of  the US Armed Forces Journal.

A revised map of Iran and the Middle East as proposed by Ralph Peters. Note that Iran’s access to the Persian Gulf is shortened, Iranian Azarbaijan has been absorbed into the Republic of Azarbaijan, Iranian Kurdistan taken into a Greater Kurdistan with Iranian Baluchistan merged into Pakistan’s Baluchistan.

Despite numerous references to the contrary, Professor Bernard Lewis denies that he has originated the plan to Balkanize Iran, Turkey and other countries in Western Asia.

Professor Bernard Lewis. An expert of the entire Islamic World as well as ancient Iran. He categorically denies having any connection with plans to Balkanize Western Asia.