The Nozhat ol Majales: A major document proving the Persian legacy of Azarbaijan and Arran

 

The Nozhat ol Majales or the “Joy of the Gatherings” is a major document that adds further weight to the history of the Persian legacy in  Azarbaijan and the Caucasus. For a Persian language introduction to the Nozhat ol Majales see معرفی نزهه المجالس  by Shahrbaraz.

This is essentially a compilation of 4,100 quatrains organized in 17 chapters. The book can be downloaded in its textbook form here: Nozhat ol Majales (in pdf). The book was preserved for posterity during the 14th century (circa July 1331) through the efforts of Ismail b. Esfandiyar b. Mohammad b. Esfandiar Abhari.

A rare document of Persian quatrains

The Nozhat ol-Majales is highly significant as it bears very rare quatrains from Iranian savants such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and famous Persian poets such as Fakhreddin Asad Gorgani and Nezami Ganjavi. There are even references to Fariborz III Shirvanshah of the Caucasus and the Seljuq rulers. 

The Persian Legacy of Azarbaijan and the Caucasus

Of major importance is that the Nozhat ol Majales contains the Persian languiage works of at least 115 poets from Iran’s Azarbaijan province in the northwest of Iran and the eastern portion of the Caucasus. The latter region was historically  composed of former Iranian territories such as Shirvan, Arran,Ganja, etc.

Ganja for example is represented by 24 Persian poets in the Nozhat ol Majales. Other Persian poets from the Caucasus include Bakhtiar Shirvani and Kamal Maraghi. it is also highly notable that many of the Caucasian poets were women, including Dokhtar-e-Salar and Razziye Ganjai. Unlike many other parts of Greater iran, most of the Caucasian poets originated from the regular working class and not from elite courts.

This adds further evidence to the fact that Persian was a common language of the ordinary people in the Caucasus and Azarbaijan before the gradual linguistic Turkification of the region. Persian was not simply a language confined to select elites in the Caucasus and Azarbaijan – this was the popular language of the mainstream populace.

Full-fledged linguistic Turkification in the eastern Caucasus and Azarbaijan began from the 16th century AD with the arrival of the Safavids. The latter were supported and joined by large numbers of Shiite Turcomen Qizilbash supporters from Anatolia  who migrated into the province of Azarbaijan in Iran. What is significant is that Persian was still in force in the 13th century AD, in both Azarbaijan and the Caucasus, two centuries after the arrival of the Seljuk Turks.

Nowruz in Georgia and the Georgian Legacy in Iran

 

The Nowruz Iranian New Year is now an official holiday in Georgia:

Nowruz declared as a national holiday in Georgia (Reprt by the Georgian News Agency on March 21, 2010)

Nowruz has powerful roots in the Caucasus due to the heavy historical influence of Irna in the region since pre-Islamci times. As noted by Professor Mark Whittow of Oxford Unviersity:

The oldest outside influence in Trans-Caucasia is that of Persia (p.203)many of its populations, including Armenians and Georgians, as well as Persians and Kurds, the Transcaucasus had much closer ties with the former Sassanian world to its south and east than with the world to the west (p.204)”.  [Whittow, Mark, The Making of Byzantium: 600-1025, University of California Press, pp. 203-204].

 

Talysh girls from the Republic of Azarbaijan (ancient Arran or Albania) engaged in the Nowruz celebrations of March 21. The Talysh speak an Iranian language akin to those that were spoken throughout Iranian azarbaijan unitl the Turkic arrivals of the 11th century AD.

There are now indications that a large proportion of the inhabitants of modern Iran have a number of shared genetic characteristics with modern Georgians: Kindly consult a recent study by Professors Nasidze and his colleagues,

Nasidze, I., Quinque, D., Rahmani, M., Alemohamad, S.Y., Stoneking, M. (2006). Concomitant Replacement of Language and mtDNA in South Caspian Populations. Current Biology, 16, 668–673 (pdf)

A very interesting paper published recently by Babak Rezvani disusses the history of the Fereydani Georgians of the seventeenth century in the general vicinity of Isfahan, the Iranian capital during the Safavid era

Babak Rezvani: The Fereydani Georgian Representation of Identity and Narration of History (pdf). Downloaded from the British Columbia University System Library resources.  

The musical influences of Iran continue to resonate in the Caucasus. The Georgian instrumental folk song at the link below begins with melodies with connections to the Balkans and the Zamfir notes of Romania; this then transforms into a distinct Perso-Georgian rhythm. The song then concludes with that Perso-Georgian melody played in a fast-paced Caucasian (Kafkaz) beat:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNUtwuGycsc (kindly click here to enjoy this Georgian folk song with an embedded Persian melody)

For more information on the connections between Iran and the Caucasus, kindly consult the link below:

Iran and Caucasia 

Georgian luge competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili is seen on this undated photograph provided by Georgia's Olympic Committee in Tbilisi. A black cloud descended over the Vancouver Olympics on Friday after 21-year-old Kumaritashvili was killed in a horrific training crash at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Nodar Kumaritashvili (1988-2010). the late Georgiam Luge competitor who tragically died during practice runs fin Whistler, British Columbia during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. His name “Nodar” is the Georgianized equivalent of the Iranian “Nader”.