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Who are we?

Written by on Friday, 1 February 2008
Politics and Society, Tajikistan
43 Comments

I usually come across rather interesting information when I just surf on the internet with no purpose. This time I found a couple of sources that explain the etymology of the word “Tajik”.

I remember when I was at high-school we were often told that Tajik meant crowned; consequently, Tajik nation was a crowned nation. As far as I remember, the books I read and our teachers said the word “Tajik” appeared during Somoni Empire and it was used in the works of Saadi and J.Rumi then. I love this interpretation and never thought of it being true or false before I read a article at Wikipedia about ‘the Central Asian people known as Tajiks’:

“Tājik” is a word of Turko-Mongol origin and means (literally) Non-Turk. It has the same root as the word Tat which is used by Turkic-speakers for the Persian-speaking population of the Caucasus.

First mentioned by the Uyghur historian Mahmoud Al-Kāshgharī, Tājik is an old Turkic expression referring to all Persian-speaking peoples of Central Asia. From the 11th century on, it came to be applied principally to all East-Iranians, and later specifically to Persian-speakers. It is hard to establish the use of the word before the Turkic- and Mongol conquest of Central Asia, and since at least the 15th century it has been used by the region’s Iranian population to distinguish themselves from the Turks.

Here the word is said to have Turko-Mongol origin. Even though this interpretation relatively makes sense, it is hard to argue if it is true or not.

Besides that, I ran into one more interpretation of ‘Tajik”. This time the origin is claimed to be much older. In the article “Who are Tajiks?” by Traher Kabuli it is said:

The name Tajik (also spelled Tadjik, Tajek) refers to a group of people who are believed to be one of the pure and close decedents of the ancient Aryans. Their country was called Aryana Vajeh and the name “Taa-jyaan” from which came the word Tajik is mentioned in The Avesta.

Interpretation of history is different from country to country, region to region. Every event in the history is described in different ways by different authors. In any case, wherever the word comes from it is for sure that Tajiks have rich culture and their roots go deep into history.

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43 Comments »

  • Faramarz says:

    Actually, the word Tajik comes from Middle Persian Tazik/Tazig, a term originally to some Arabs tribes by Iranians. It later become known among Turkic and Chinese and Tibetans after Arab invasion of Iran and Central Asia and the formation of Arab chalifate.

    The Chinese and Turks refered to Arab chalifate as Tashi and Dashi (Tibetan Stagzig). Consequently they refered to Iranians also as Dashi/Tashi later Tazik/Tajik because Iranians were also part of the Muslim/Arab chalifate.

    Later it transformed to mean only Iranian as opposed to Turkic and Mongolian, with further meaning only sedentary Persians. It was first apeared in Western Iran, as we see in the poems of Saadi and Rumi, but later moved to Khorasan/Vararud.

    It was not an identical name of Persian-speakers in Central Asia, but mainly due to division-and rule politics of Russian emperialists it was applied to these people to artificially divide them from the rest of Persians. But now it is still problematic, as it does not truely definite term.

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  • Doroud says:

    You might refer to “Tojikon dar torikh” written by Prof. Rahim Musulmonkulov Qubodioni where a thorough research of the history of tajiks and also the etymology of the word has been made. Numerous sources and references have been cited, as well as many different theories and a great deal of work done make it a very competent source.

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  • Ian says:

    I haven’t read the book Doroud refers to, but Faramarz has nailed the answer absolutely correctly. The nonsense about Aryans, crowns, etc. is just that, nonsense.

    I happened to come across the word “Tazi” in Nasir-i Khusrow’s Safarnama, which he’s using to refer to Arabic language (zaban-i tazi). That’s in the mid-11th century AD, maybe just as the term was starting to be used to sedentary Persian-speakers.

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  • Ivo says:

    I’m glad I came across this article (actually this is how I found this blog) because while I was updating the BG Wiki article about TJ I was about to put that piece of information about the Turkic tribes being the first to have started using the word ‘Tajik’ to refer to Persian-speaking non-Turkic peoples in Central Asia.

    Though I’m really curious how /z/ became /ʤ/. I wonder if the following sound change in Persian is plausible /z/ before front vowel becomes /ʒ/ and then /ʤ/?!

    And why did those Iranians call some Arab tribes ‘Tazik/Tazig’!?

    Reply

  • Vadim says:

    Wow! You’re must be experts. To my shame I’ve never heard of that book but I’m definitely going to look for it and read it.

    Thanks guys.

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  • Ataman Rakin says:

    “which he’s using to refer to Arabic language (zaban-i tazi).”

    That’s interesting because another theory I read (once I find the source I will post the biblio details here) is, that the name ‘Tajik’ was indeed popularised by the Arabs. According to the theory, they already used it for the Farsi speaking traders from Central Asia who allegedly formed a sizeable community in Ta’iiz, a city in southern Yemen (which still exists), i.e. ‘ al-Ta’iizi ‘ in Arabic = from Ta’iiz.

    One thing for sur is, that the heydays of Farsi/Tajik civilisation in Central Asia were also those of Islam and the other way around.

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  • Tajik Boy says:

    I’d go with the interpretation that actually makes an etimological sense. Taj means crown. Tajik=crown-bearer, simple as that. Just like Turkmenistan=land of Turkmens, etc…

    I can’t believe people how “scientists” go to such great extremes to describe the origin of a word without actually coming to the conclusion regarding its meaning in the language in which it originated.

    I personally find these “studies” quite ammusing… They try to attribute the origin of the word to some other culture while at the same time can’t explain the meaning in that same culture/language.

    Don’t you think it is a bit far fetched/ridiculous? I think all these other theories are pure distraction by a bunch or imbeciles (pardon my french) who don’t have enough brains to put together a solid theory.

    To me the word speaks of itself… and there is little doubt about the origins of Aryans and how Tajiks relate to them. Just get a map of Indoeuropean languages or check wikipedia…

    You gotta give credit when it is due.

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  • Ataman Rakin says:

    “They try to attribute the origin of the word to some other culture while at the same time can’t explain the meaning in that same culture/language.”

    Why do you have such difficulties with the fact that most if not all cultures are the result of different inputs, esp. with the Arab and Turkic influences in today’s Persian cultures?

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  • Tajik Boy says:

    I have no difficulty accepting facts. Do you have them? Can you show me the word “Tajik” in an Arabic dictionary with that distinctive meaning?

    Taj is a word with a persian root and I can’t imagine any arab or mongols coining it, that’s all…

    It all boils down to simple logic which is hard to get for those who live in the realm of religion ;-)

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  • Darius says:

    Faramarz has given the most precise answer properly research by the Russian academician Vladimir Bartold in 1920s. “Tajik” is a synonym of Persian, Iranian used by Saadi in the following form:

    Shayad ke be padeshah beguyand
    Torke to berixt xune tajik

    And by Rumi:

    Yek hamle vo yek hamle, shab amad o tariki
    Chosti kon o torki kon, ni narmi yo tajiki.

    Both of them use the term beside tork to distinguish Persians from Turks. It had been rarely used by Persian writers as an independent term. “Tork- o tajik” could be found in Tarikh-i Bayhaqi in abundance, where “tajik” refers to Persians, Iranians. The term acquired political characteristic only after the Russian invasion. Even Ayni before “the Bukharan Revolution” in 1920 refers to Tajiks as Parsiyan: “Ma – Parsiyan”. It has nothing to do with “taj” (crown), since the latter is an Arabicized form of the Persian word “taag” and “taagik” has never been used neither before nor after Islam.

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  • I have read many sources and such claims as Tajik coming from Awesta or etc all have one meaning and that is Crown. However it has nothing to do with any race of any kind.

    Tajik in roots is some 500 years old referred to Turkic people of Iranian speakers. That does mean they have to be Iranian. The terms is more then often used only in referring to Turkic people, such as Altaic looking.

    However it has been wrongfully used just like how Persian was misinterpreted and used to the people of all Iran for the fact Persian only refers to those who speak Parsi whom were the residence of Pars Province (OLD Pars was much bigger in them modern province of Pars with its capital at Sheraz). Now as we know not all Iranians are Iranian as, and nor all Iranians are Persian, a sign that even the term Iranian is also wrongfully used.

    In conclusion. Those who are Turkic in Origin but speaks a Central Asian Persian dialects (Bokhari) now known as Tajiki can be called Tajiki, not to Racial IRanian people or the Afghan Race who we misunderstood in terms of using European-Russian reference “Tajik” for all Persian Speakers.

    The Tajiks of Afghanistan are often viewed same as those of Uzbek and they also trace their origin to Turkistan (A sign of Bokharian and Samarkandi migration) whom came into Afghanistan by the approval of Afghan King Abdur Rahman Khan. Their number according to Afghans themselves is 5%. Therefore it means that 25% so called Ethnic Tajiks of Afghanistan are not Tajik (Turkic) by Race but of those local Afghan.

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  • Doroud says:

    Tajik boy…I think you are a bit “extreme” in calling all this research as “ridiculous”…indeed it is important to look at how language and people evolve into what they are today; just looking at the name and labelling what you see “d’un coup” is not exactly my notion of precision. Hypothesis => Proof => Fact
    It is worth it to go as far as possible into history to find the earliest resources referring to the tajiks; i have read this book mentioned above, and references have been made to the tajiks in the works of Herodotus. (yes-as long ago as that), and it is clear that research done by competent people exercing in the domaine is more credible than our conclusions based on one single root (even for the most confident) :)
    Secondly, all those poor “imbeciles” who don’t have enough brain to gather up one single theory are at least not prejudging anyone or anything…they are doing their job. Its just like saying modern physicists are all just dumb coz they can’t just find the link between quantum physics and general relativity and gather up one single theory applicable in every single point of the universe.
    It is true that there are many people who (maybe even for political; religious etc reasons ) can spread out false propaganda, but there are many persianologists, iranologists who really do serious research into many many old texts of old farsi to find “the theory” which could be correct. For the moment, we can only make hypothesis, there are no facts as we don’t have enough proof. (or perhaps the problem is that there are too “many” hypothesis.
    -Doroud to all.

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  • Ataman Rakin says:

    “It all boils down to simple logic which is hard to get for those who live in the realm of religion”

    Or for those who stick to primitive nationalist myths that think that the own nation invented civilisation.

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  • Tajik Boy says:

    Doroud,

    Thanks for the interesting insight, but I am not sure to what degree one could employ the scientific method you described when the goal is to find the origin/meaning of a word. After all we are dealing with a word, which is a direct derivative of human factor. And for all we know human behavior (especially that related to our “non-scientific” part of life) is highly irrational. You have to agree that the subject matter is not as straightforward as say, carbon dating.

    References to the word “Tajik” in the works of other nations are just that-references. And it is totally fine to describe the findings of a research and establish proper historical facts. However, these facts alone do not warrant a conclusion about the origin/meaning of the word (if there is logic is surely escapes me). For all I know these nations could have heard the word from the Tajiks themselves.

    Think about it for a second. Isn’t it ridiculous to suppose that a nation is named by others? It is like saying the word American was coined by russians since historical references “prove” that this word was used by russians to describe a nation overseas. Who knows, maybe 300 years from now some “Americanologist” would dig out some ancient copy of “Pravda” newspaper from 1980s where the world American is mentioned and use it as a proof for his theory. You get my point?

    Anyway, if I have to choose between the conclusions, which are based on some historic references and an etymological explanation, I’d go with the latter since it would make more sense. In this respect who mentioned the word in the first place and what they said is just irrelevant.

    This is the point I was trying to make…

    Reply

  • Tajik Boy says:

    Or for those who stick to primitive nationalist myths that think that the own nation invented civilisation.

    However ridiculous, you are entitled to your opinion! ;)

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  • Ian says:

    Tajik Boy,

    There is such a thing as a false etymology. “Taj (crown)=>Tajik” is one. The similarity in sound is only a coincidence.

    And actually, no, it isn’t that weird that foreigners frequently give names to countries. America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, who clearly wasn’t a native American!

    And, by the way, the reference I gave to Nasir-i Khusraw is to a Central Asian Persian-speaker writing in the 11th century, right when the meaning of the word was shifting.

    Ataman Rakin is right–the word probably originates from the people who came from Ta’iz.

    Darius is right–from the 10th century “turk o tajik” was another way of saying “everyone” in Central Asia. The ‘k’ was probably added to “taji” in order for the phrase to sound better.

    Reply

  • Tajik Boy says:

    Ian,

    Thanks for opinion, but I beg to differ on several points and levels.

    There is such a thing as a false etymology. “Taj (crown)=>Tajik” is one. The similarity in sound is only a coincidence.

    That is purely your opinion of course and indeed the above-mentioned could be a false etymology, but so would be your example (you will see below why I think so).
    Ok then, how about going deeper into the history to the time when Avesta was written and finding an explanation there?

    The name Tajik (also spelled Tadjik, Tajek) refers to a group of people who are believed to be one of the pure and close decedents of the ancient Aryans. Their country was called Aryana Vajeh and the name “Taa-jyaan” from which came the word Tajik is mentioned in The Avesta.

    There is your written evidence that a country called Aryana existed and that Taa-jyaans were its inhabitants. Do you think this is coincidence also?
    When I put all of the above and compare it, say with this:

    Darius is right–from the 10th century “turk o tajik” was another way of saying “everyone” in Central Asia. The ‘k’ was probably added to “taji” in order for the phrase to sound better.

    The choice becomes obvious… Especially when you consider how they justify the addition of “k” at the end of the word “taji”. I personally don’t see how the word “Tajik” sounds better than say “Taji”.
    Plus, consider these facts:
    1. History points to the fact that Tajiks were the first inhabitants of Central Asia before Mongols came mingled with Turks and adopted Turkish as their language (that explains why all Turkic nations in CA look more East Asian than Turkish).
    2. Tajiks were the ones who built and inhabited the most important cities of in Central Asia (Samarqand and Bukhara) and contributed to the advancement of science and poetry of their time. Other nations borrowed from Tajiks the terms to identify themselves. Country names such as Kazakhstan, Uzbakiston, Kyrgyzstan, Hindustan do not mean anything in Turkish. The suffix “Stan” is a Tajik/Persian equivalent of “land of”.

    Now taking all these “puzzle pieces” into account, do you honestly think that such a historically rich and culturally advanced nation of it’s time would rely on a bunch of newcomer-nomads to give it a name and provide it with an identity? Frankly, I find it quite insulting!
    The problem I have with all these alternative explanations (which try to attribute the origin of the word Tajik to other cultures) is that they don’t get you anywhere. They might provide an unsophisticated reader with some insight (with a lot of imagination-stretching as seen above) but they don’t quite propose a plausible enough explanation. Their conclusions are based on loose assumptions and are hard to fit into the general picture (mosaic theory?). In other words they are inconsistent with the rest of the body of evidence. That alone is enough to find them ridiculous in my books.
    In contrast, in the example where Taaj-yans is mentioned in Avesta no such inexplicable alteration is made, i.e. all of the letters of the word are present, nothing is added or subtracted. The context of the word is defined clearly, proper references are made and a solid conclusion is drawn.
    Honestly, I can’t simply sit on the sidelines and let people pass logically inconsistent or insulting opinions/judgments about my ethnicity.

    America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, who clearly wasn’t a native American!

    Three points here:
    1. The term “Native American” is NOT a name of a nation as say, British, Irish, Uzbak or Tajik. It is merely a reference to a group of people. So here you are sort of comparing apples to oranges. 

    2. The indigenous population, of what later became known as America, had their distinct names and still do (e.g. Maya, Aztec, etc.). These are the names that Native American’s use to describe themselves. The only plausible explanation as to why the new continent (America) was named after someone outside perhaps has to do with the absence of such a concept as continent in early Native American societies. They probably thought there was no other land!

    3. The term American, referring to a nation, is widely attributed to people who live in the United States. Even then separate ethnicities choose to self-idenfity themselves differently. That’s why you have subgroups such as Irish-American, African-American, etc… These terms are not coined by any other nation. They evolved as means of SELF-identification of people who live in the US. Kapish?

    At the end of the day everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but the quality of that opinion and the thought process behind it serves as a fairly precise proxy for the level of one’s intelligence …

    Reply

  • Ian says:

    Tajik boy,

    You’re quite right, everyone has the right to his or her own opinion–and I take that to mean that in the face of whatever evidence to the contrary, you choose to hold to your opinion. I won’t continue to try to convince you.

    But, I’ll just ask you (and not only you, but other readers of the comments here) to consider the reasons why the “Aryan purity and priority” theory is the one the Tajik government chooses to promote; whose interests that theory serves; and the results of similar “purity and priority” theories in other parts of the world.

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  • Tajik Boy says:

    Ian,

    I take that to mean that in the face of whatever evidence to the contrary, you choose to hold to your opinion. I won’t continue to try to convince you.

    I am more than willing to consider convincing facts, which, alas, I did not find in your posts (no offence, this is just my observation).

    But, I’ll just ask you (and not only you, but other readers of the comments here) to consider the reasons why the “Aryan purity and priority” theory is the one the Tajik government chooses to promote; whose interests that theory serves; and the results of similar “purity and priority” theories in other parts of the world.

    For an unsophisticated reader the word “Aryan” is automatically tied to theories of supremacy. Indeed many, when they hear the word, react like that Pavlov’s dog to the light without giving any thought as to whether other meanings exist. To this date the term Aryan has the most skewed interpretation in the minds of ordinary population.

    In reality though the term Indo-Aryan and Indo-European is widely used (interchangeably) in linguistics to describe a group of languages, which were found to be astoundingly similar in structure and words.

    This similarity has led many scientists to conclude that all these languages originated from one language Proto-Indo-European (or Indo-Aryan). There are a lot of debates as to where the original speakers of Indo-Aryan came from. One of the theories suggests that it all started from what is currently known as Central Asia (that is before turks/mongols of course). The theories that describe Tajiks as Aryans, therefore have no supremacy connotation, but are more related to the old Indo-European language tree dilemma.

    Alas, Turkic is not part of the family. That said, I understand that being partially east-asian by ethnicity (if i remember correct u are partially uzbak) you might feel a bit left out (or unimportant) when subjects such as history and language non-asian/turkic inhabitants of CA are discussed, but that should not necessarily cloud the judgment of otherwise reasonable man like you.

    Nor should the mention of the word Aryan in our history (just because it is used to mean a totally different thing in the recent past) should prohibit us from understanding our roots and where we come from.

    Peace :)

    Reply

  • Tajik Boy says:

    It is indeed fascinating to look at the history of humanity from the language point of view…

    Here is a piece from wikipedia:

    The most probable date for Proto-Indo-Iranian unity is roughly around 2500 BC. In this sense of the word Aryan, the Aryans were an ancient culture preceding both the Vedic and Avestan cultures. Candidates for an archeological identification of this Indo-Iranian culture are the Andronovo and/or Srubnaya Archeological Complexes. India, Anatolia and Central Asia have also been suggested as possible homelands for this culture.

    In linguistics, the term Aryan currently may be used to refer to the Indo-Iranian language family. To prevent confusion because of its several meanings, the linguistic term is often avoided today. It has been replaced by the unambiguous terms Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Indo-Iranian, Indo-Iranian, Iranian and Indo-Aryan.

    The Proto-Indo-Iranian language evolved into the family of Indo-Iranian languages, of which the oldest-known members are Vedic Sanskrit, Avestan and another Indo-Iranian language, known only from loan-words found in the Mitanni language.

    Hope that clarifies misunderstandings here… :)

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  • Ian says:

    I hope we can all agree that wikipedia, of all things, is not the final word on the matter.

    I will concede that there was a thing that we call “Indo-European” (they stopped calling it Indo-Aryan about 60 years ago). That language and culture, for which no evidence remains, is the precursor to linguistic groups like Germanic (which includes English), Slavic, Iranian, Indian, and many others. Those Scythians sure did like to migrate.

    My problem is that you claim, slightly riduculously, that Tajiks descended with perfect purity, from “Aryans.” Dude, people mixed with each other over the 6,000 years we’re talking about. It happened. There is no “pure” ethnicity. That’s an invention of the very violent and hate-filled 20th century.

    That’s not at all to say that today’s Tajiks aren’t worthy of having a country, being proud of their culture, etc. They should. But it really doesn’t depend on (and is made weaker by, actually) these pseudo-scientific theories about Aryans running around being the best and being perfectly pure.

    If you’d like I’m happy to get some good solid evidence regarding the question about the word “Tajik.” My university’s library is pretty big and I imagine they’ve got some good books on the subject. So just let me know, and I’ll put some time into the matter.

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  • Tajik Boy says:

    My problem is that you claim, slightly riduculously, that Tajiks descended with perfect purity, from “Aryans.” Dude, people mixed with each other over the 6,000 years we’re talking about. It happened.

    First of all, that was not my claim. I merely quoted one of the view points about Tajiks. Second, reference to “pure decendent of Aryans” does not in any way point to supremacy. Even I may not agree about the part on “purity”. My initial reason for bringing up the subject of Aryans and Indo-European languages, was to shed some light to the topic of this discussion, which is about Tajiks, their history and roots.

    I would be more than happy to consider whatever evidence you obtain. Indeed it could be an interesting engagement of minds…

    :)

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  • Ian says:

    Okay, so what I hear you saying is that you don’t believe in the Tajik government’s official racial theory; I commend you for that.

    I think I also hear you saying that Tajiks and Uzbeks and Mongols and even peoples without names in history all mixed together to produce the people that live in Central Asia now. I agree with that too.

    I’ll see what I can do to address the “Tajik” question.

    Not sure if this was directed to me:

    Alas, Turkic is not part of the family. That said, I understand that being partially east-asian by ethnicity (if i remember correct u are partially uzbak) you might feel a bit left out (or unimportant) when subjects such as history and language non-asian/turkic inhabitants of CA are discussed, but that should not necessarily cloud the judgment of otherwise reasonable man like you.

    No, actually I’m pure, pure Anglo :) (with maybe some Eskimo or Native American mixed in there hundreds of years ago, so hey, maybe I’m related to Uzbeks)

    Reply

  • Tajik Boy says:

    Okay, so what I hear you saying is that you don’t believe in the Tajik government’s official racial theory;

    No I don’t. There is no reason to believe this claim. I think Tajiks, like all other people, are looking into their history (with they were deprived of in the Soviet times) and the fact that the word “Aryan” exists in our history as a reference to our ancestry (Avesta) has nothing to do with the way Nazi regime has portrayed it to be in the 20th century.

    It is wrong (unless you have some kind of hidden political propaganda) to force people forget about their history and roots because some douchebag (pardon my French) borrowed the words and concepts from their culture/history and turned them into a political propaganda in one of the continents in the world.

    No, actually I’m pure, pure Anglo (with maybe some Eskimo or Native American mixed in there hundreds of years ago, so hey, maybe I’m related to Uzbeks)

    That must have been a different Ian then. My appologies. Isn’t that interesting? I hear many (especially in the US) claim they have some native american blood in them. Could that be your way of justifying your presence on this continent? Just curious, how do you know you have indian blood? As far as I know there aren’t any records to prove that.

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  • Tajik Boy says:

    I think I also hear you saying that Tajiks and Uzbeks and Mongols and even peoples without names in history all mixed together to produce the people that live in Central Asia now.

    Almost right, except uzbeks (and other east asians in CA) most likely did not exist as separate nations and consequently had no distinct identities until after the 20th century.

    I suspect they were all part of mongol hordes, who chose to stay in the region. Their way of life changed little over the years (except perhaps for uzbeks, who co-mingled with Tajiks) and that is in itself is a good indication of where they come from.

    The history of Tajiks, as we have come to learn, goes far back to the times of Bactrians (areas of Balkh in Northern Afghanistan+ Southern Tajikistan) and Sogdians (Samarqand+Bukhara, Northern Tajikistan).

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  • Ian says:

    Isn’t that interesting? I hear many (especially in the US) claim they have some native american blood in them. Could that be your way of justifying your presence on this continent?

    No, not claiming or justifying–just joking.

    Almost right, except uzbeks (and other east asians in CA) most likely did not exist as separate nations and consequently had no distinct identities until after the 20th century.

    I suspect they were all part of mongol hordes, who chose to stay in the region. Their way of life changed little over the years (except perhaps for uzbeks, who co-mingled with Tajiks) and that is in itself is a good indication of where they come from.

    The history of Tajiks, as we have come to learn, goes far back to the times of Bactrians (areas of Balkh in Northern Afghanistan+ Southern Tajikistan) and Sogdians (Samarqand+Bukhara, Northern Tajikistan).

    Interestingly Bactrian and Sogdian are not linguistic precursors to Tajik, but rather Yaghnobi and other mountain dialects of the eastern Iranian variety–Pashto, Shugnani, etc. Persian was a western Iranian language brought to area now called Tajikistan by the armies composed of Arabs and soldiers from ‘Ajam (what we call Iran now). They and the Sogdians all mixed together.

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  • Tajik Boy says:

    Interestingly Bactrian and Sogdian are not linguistic precursors to Tajik, but rather Yaghnobi and other mountain dialects of the eastern Iranian variety–Pashto, Shugnani, etc.

    I guess we both agree that Bactrian and Sogdian are a part of eastern Iranian group of languages and as such share some commonality with modern Persian.

    By the way, Tajik (if you have noticed) does not sound quite the same as Persian. We tend to use words that are quite distinct from Iranian. To that end, therefore, it is quite hard to determine what language exactly was the precursor to Tajik. While I do not discount the influence of Persian on Tajik, I may not go as far as to call it the precursor to Tajik.

    Most likely Sogdian, Bactrian and Persian all collided to form something called Tajiki (Dari in Afghanistan).

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  • Ian says:

    Yeah, and I’d also add that a major differentiating feature in Tajik is the huge amount of Uzbek vocabulary (and even, in northern Tajik dialects, the tendency to change prepositions into postpositions). Iranian Persian has words of Turkic origin, but not nearly to the same extent.

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  • Doroud says:

    This may be true to a cerain extent in areas bordering Uzbekistan, where a significant amount of uzbek vocabulary has entered the tajik language; however, regarding this:

    “Persian was a western Iranian language brought to area now called Tajikistan by the armies composed of Arabs and soldiers from ‘Ajam (what we call Iran now). They and the Sogdians all mixed together.”

    I am not exactly sure to what extent this is true. It is argued upon even among the most credible persianologists and there is absolutely no theory as to whether it is true or not. (don’t trust wikipedia to such an extent)

    While attending M. Fereidoon Junaidi’s pahlavi classes in Tehran, (yes – i did actually try to learn pahlavi), he actually made me read texts with my tajik accent and said how this was closer to the real pahlavi accentuation than texts read by any iranian. And as anyone majoring in linguistics may tell you, its rather vowels who change during the transfer of languages from one people to another rather than a change in consonant pronounciation. (just look at the difference in the accents of an iranian speaking english and a french speaking english).
    And – the oldest pahlavi texts have been found in Nisa (southern turkmenistan – bordering Iran). Iranians claim pahlavi to be their precursor; then why does pahlavi sound more tajik than farsi?

    Doesn’t this give an indication as to where persian was spoken first?

    Anyway, Prof. Junaidi also gave many more examples such as the equivalent of “-ing” in english or “etre en train de faire quelque chose” being existent in tajik and in pahlavi and not in farsi;

    Ex.
    in tajik: “rafta – istodaam”
    in farsi: “daram miram” in spoken (less revealing than the tajik equivalence, as the verb “doram or daram” doesn’t reveal the continuity of the action while the equivalent tajik “istodaam” is more subtle and meaningful, “dar hale raftan hastam” (eq. etre en train d’y aller) can be written, but the auxilary “hal” comes from arabic and so cannot be classed as farsi and so we just say “miravam”

    But, in “miravam” this notion of the action being done “continously” is lost. It is no more “going” but “go”.

    In pahlavi, this equivalence of “istodaam” can be found.

    This is a very important notion of language (as any english-speaker can feel the importance of -ing).

    (it is also very interesting philosophically; how can someone go and stand at the same time? On reason why i love being tajik :) ; but ofcourse in this case, “istodaam” is just an auxilary verb) :)

    Anyway, Prof. Junaidi is among the most famous and most important iranologists of this century and his numerous works on the history of farsi and tajik languages are not ignorable. And the theories he proposes weigh out in logic than any other propositions made (even that of wikipedia, who is more famous) :D

    Another reason;
    While studying farsi literature in high school, we did some parts from Firdawsi’s Shohnoma, now I being tajik and all the others iranian, I had less trouble understanding the texts and and archaic words than the others. Hors, Shohnoma is known inarguably as being the “saviour” of the farsi language; doesn’t this give another indication?
    And as to why there are so little arabic words in tajik and as to why so many in farsi, if farsi came from the west by the “ajam” mingled with the arabs, how come we have less arabic words and more archaic farsi words?
    If this western iranian population lost its farsi words because of the arab conquest, how could these lost words be transferred to the tajik peoples, being “lost”?!?!
    All these are contradictions presented by the “popular” theory of the spread of the farsi language by the ajam and the arabs.

    Reply

  • Tajik Boy says:

    In pahlavi, this equivalence of “istodaam” can be found.
    This is a very important notion of language (as any english-speaker can feel the importance of -ing).

    This is indeed an interesting phenomenon. I have also noticed that Tajik folks who come from the southern Tajikistan, have no difficulty learning English and speaking it almost without an accent, while those from the northern Tajikistan can’t do the same.

    Iranians also have their own accent (when they speak English), which is quite distinct from Tajik.

    For Tajiks from the south the concepts and the construction of English seem very intuitive, while those of Russian may pose difficulty.

    Those are my observations.

    Reply

  • Ian says:

    Doesn’t this [that Tajik sounds more like Pahlavi than Farsi] give an indication as to where persian was spoken first?

    Doroud,

    No, I’m afraid it doesn’t.

    First of all, we don’t have any recordings of Middle Persian (which was written in the Pahlavi script) speakers, so we can only really conjecture about what it sounded like.

    Second, while you’re right that modern Tajik conserves some lexical and grammatical forms from the Persian of the Shahnama, the Shahnama was written well after the invasion of Muslims from the west, who carried with them New Persian (wiping out Middle Persian and Sogdian). I disagree that Tajik Persian has fewer Arabic words than Iranian Persian.

    Third, just because now a language is spoken in one geographical area, that does not say anything about where it was spoken 1,500 years ago or even 10 years ago. People move around all the time, and facts and documents from history (i.e., the invasion of New Persian speakers into the Zarafshan/Amu Darya regions) help us know where people were and what language they were speaking.

    Again, I’m not arguing against Tajiks being proud of their culture, language, or traditions. However, I sense in these arguments in favor of a pure descent from either a) Bactrian/Sogdian civilization, or b) Achaemenid-Pahlavi civilization, the denial of the fact that modern Central Asia on the territory Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is a hybrid of Turkic, Mongol, Russian, and Iranian languages and cultures.

    As are all cultures, ultimately. Take the English language for example–after being relatively isolated, it went through periods of Christianization (which brought Latin and Greek) and the influence of French. And, over the centuries, vowels shifted all over the place, consonants were lost and gained. English is still changing–listen to any rap album, where the vestiges of grammar from African languages are used pretty regularly.

    Does that mean English is related to African languages? You decide.

    Reply

  • Tajik Boy says:

    I’d also add that a major differentiating feature in Tajik is the huge amount of Uzbek vocabulary (and even, in northern Tajik dialects, the tendency to change prepositions into postpositions).

    Let me disagree with you on this. First of all, I hope we all agree that Tajik spoken in the northern part of Tajikistan is not quite representative. This is a fact that is not even disputed by those who come from Khujand themselves.

    Contrary to that, southern Tajik spoken primarily in the south, is more clean in its form and content from external influence whatever they may be.

    Official Tajik (which is spoken by a few in Tajikistan) is the language whose clarity has been kept in tact for many years by Tajik scholars.

    While I do not dispute the fact of uzbakization of nothern Tajikistan (in the manner you described), I do not agree that Tajik (especially official Tajik) has a lot of uzbak words.

    Reply

  • Doroud says:

    Ian,

    Are you a native farsi (iranian) speaker?
    I am, and I can very openly tell you that farsi DOES have many more arabic words and expressions than Tajik; even iranians agree on this. Maybe this is less visible in written, but in spoken language, Tajiks use many less arabic words; many archaic farsi words dead in spoken farsi and only seen in farsi literature are used every single day by tajiks…if you want a source, read works by Prof. Qubodioni (linguist, professor of farsi and tajik, ancient chairman of tajik state university, faculty of languages).

    Secondly, being of indo-european origin, thorough researches have been made into the language and roots of the words, with modern indo-european languages as models to see what pahlavi really sounded like. They use so many unimaginable ways of determining the sonority of ancient languages that i guess they are more right than you and me, even if they can “only” conjecture about what it could have been like) :) I think that just saying that there is no recording of middle persian is not a very strong argument against all the research done in the field; especially by persianologists and linguists. (and these researchers are more of scientists than politicians; i have seen quite a many, and believe me they are passionate about it, so i don’t think political motivation a source of trying to misguide people into believing nonsense; ofcourse i am not generalising, so there are always those who do write nonsense).

    You are right about the indication that history may give about the deplacement of peoples and invasions of territories, but even this is argued upon many historians; this is just an indication a strong one ofcourse, but again it doesn’t “stick” to my logic as there is no solid proof for it.

    You may or may not be right, all I am doing is giving my opinions and trying to give a solid argument about my observations; my conclusions are personal and may or may not be convincing. After all not everyone’s logic reasons in the same manner.

    Last but not least; Ian, I am not pro spreading the idea that Tajiks are “pure” descendants of whatever clan or peoples and that tajik is purer than whatever other modern language in the region…
    On the contrary, I believe the richness of a language and equally a culture is it’s diversity of it’s sources and it’s speakers’ origins; and it is true that the people of Tajikistan comprise a vast number of origins and minorities.

    It is true that the government has done a good job spreading alot of false propaganda regarding the history of Tajiks in a vain attempt to try to create a cohesion between the minorities which have to co-exist together in a small country, but I also think that every side of the story should be precisely analysed, before giving any conclusions regarding a subject as sensitive and with as less certitudes as this :) .

    What I base my arguments upon, are sources written by some researchers, and somehow their logic convinced me, even though the contrary is more widely believed (by most iranians and you :) ).

    What is most “frappant” is that, in the whole Central Asia, one single small country (+ Samarkand and Bukhara, actually Tajik territories) continue to speak Tajik, and all the others…derivatives of turkic…

    PS/ Tajik Boy is right, in “official” tajik, there are no turkic words…more precisely, very very few.

    Doroud to all.

    Reply

  • Ian says:

    PS/ Tajik Boy is right, in “official” tajik, there are no turkic words…more precisely, very very few.

    I have no doubt that “official Tajik” has been cleansed of Turkicisms (tho everyone calls everyone else aka–which by the way is the origin of Iranian Persian’s agha as well) and Arabicisms. So on that point I have no disagreement. I’m even willing to concede the point that in spoken usage, Arabicisms are used less than phrases that are particular to Tajik. I’m certainly not a native speaker, nor have I counted the Arabic words in either dialect. So, unless anyone can find any better information, I’d say you and Tajik Boy are right.

    I’ll even withdraw my comment about the pronunciation of Middle Persian. It’s not crucial for me that anyone believe that we can’t know how dead languages were spoken with much accuracy.

    The claim I have a problem with is that Tajik was spoken “first” in territory of present-day Tajikistan:

    Doesn’t this give an indication as to where persian was spoken first?

    When in fact we know pretty well that the Persian dialect now spoken there is a descendant of the language spoken by the Islamic armies that invaded from the west. And that the people we call Tajiks are totally mixed genetically with other peoples of the region.

    I have to say that this discussion is fascinating to me, and I thank Doroud and Tajik Boy for indulging me. I still think that when ideology mixes with the study of cultures, you tend to hear more about purity and priority, whereas when individuals talk to each other face-to-face (or post-to-post), you learn more important things about dialogue and diversity.

    Reply

  • Tajik Boy says:

    Ian,

    I would also like to thank your for your contribution. I will be honest, I don’t know as much about my roots as the history and culture of my nation warrant.

    It is in this kind of discussions that I personally find new perspectives that help me better understand who I am. So thank you for that.

    Reply

  • Ataman Rakin says:

    “Think about it for a second. Isn’t it ridiculous to suppose that a nation is named by others?”

    Why’s that? Several civilisations were founded and named by groups or individuals coming from ‘the outside’. The first Russian state, Kiivskaya Rus, for example was basically founded and named by/after Viking invaders (‘rus’=prob. of Viking origin for ‘rowers’/boatsmen which the Vikings were) who inter-married with Easter Slavic tribes. Similar for the Mughal dynasty in North India whose founders came from what is now Uzbekistan.

    Another example: the Uighurs. Before the 1930s there was no nation called as such even though there used to be a medieval Uighur kingdom in present Mongolia. People in present Xinjinag primarily identified themselves with their oasis of origin (Kashgar, Yarkand, …) until the Soviets, who had considerable clout in Xinjiang in the 1930s, created an Uighur nation pretty much as they did in the USSR proper.

    “However ridiculous, you are entitled to your opinion!”

    Thank you. That is too generous. :)

    Reply

  • Tajik Boy says:

    The first Russian state, Kiivskaya Rus, for example was basically founded and named by/after Viking invaders (’rus’=prob. of Viking origin for ‘rowers’/boatsmen which the Vikings were) who inter-married with Easter Slavic tribes. Similar for the Mughal dynasty in North India whose founders came from what is now Uzbekistan.

    Ataman, thanks for these insightful examples from history but I am afraid they don’t address the question head-on. Here is why:

    1. While you are right about Rus being of viking origin, but your evidence misses the point. Rus become the term used to describe folks (both invaders and locals) who lived in the area. With time and intermarriage these two distinct groups merged and became known as russians. Again Vikings called themselves and those who they married the Rus, which is different to say naming Slavs, Dum-Dums despite their destinctive name (which is the point you were trying to make regarding Tajiks).

    2. There is no such thing as Mughul nation in India, is there? By the way Mughul is a Tajik word and it means literally Mongol :) That should give you an idea who uzbaks are originally. The reason they called themselves Mughul has to do with the fact that all these guys spoke persian (hence the prevalence of persian words in Urdu and Hindi is easily noticed). To sum up this particular point, Mughul is again a term which invaders used to describe themselves.

    Another example: the Uighurs. Before the 1930s there was no nation called as such even though there used to be a medieval Uighur kingdom in present Mongolia. People in present Xinjinag primarily identified themselves with their oasis of origin (Kashgar, Yarkand, …) until the Soviets, who had considerable clout in Xinjiang in the 1930s, created an Uighur nation pretty much as they did in the USSR proper.

    Hmm… nice reference, but the word Uighur is not Russian. The fact that Russians “restored” the name for a group of people does not equate actually coming up with a distinct name for people.

    The main point of my argument actually lies in psychology and the issue of self-awareness. It has been known to this day that only humans (and chimps, as latest studies indicate) are capable of self-awareness (i.e. distingushing their self from others). From self-awareness grow the feelings of individual and group identities. Those, in turn, are used as building blocks of self-identification among other groups/nations.

    That’s why when people discover continents, new species of animals etc. they call them whatever they want (e.g. przhevalsky’s horse, etc.), but when a new tribe of humans is discovered say in the jungles of amazon, scientists at least have decency of asking what they call themselves and refer to them as a new tribe of “blah blah”. Even tribes whose living habits has not changed for centuries are capable of knowing who they are. They have a name for themselves.

    So in this context if you assume that a nation is not capable of coming up with a name for itself (and thus relies on others to identify itself), you’re basically denying it as a member of homo sapiens and that, my friends, is insulting!

    Especially given the fact that mongols, turks or arabs, to which you seem to attribute the term Tajik, had not reached a fraction of development Tajiks had in their time.

    Reply

  • Tajik Boy says:

    Thank you. That is too generous.

    I am glad you have some sense of humor left in you :D

    Reply

  • Ataman Rakin says:

    What I appreciate in your efforts, Tajik Boy, is your enthusiasm and pride in your culture. In a way, we’re both passionates. ;) But let’s not give in to emotionalism and the absurd, e.g. “So in this context if you assume that a nation is not capable of coming up with a name for itself (and thus relies on others to identify itself), you’re basically denying it as a member of homo sapiens and that, my friends, is insulting!”
    Come on man!  LOL
    I also do not like that obsolete ‘we first’/we best-but-the-rest-of-the world-doesn’t-gets it’ supremacy discourse. You hear pretty much the same in Georgia, Armenia, Serbia, and among the Albanians.
    “Even tribes whose living habits has not changed for centuries are capable of knowing who they are. They have a name for themselves.”
    OK, muy bien: why is it that several ethnic groups have double names, i.e. one that they use internally and one that is used to designate them internationally/by outsiders e.g. etc…Georgians/Kartvelebi, Chechens and Ingush/Vainakh, … ?
    Also, *really* knowing what/what you are is acknowledging the different influences in your identity.
    “There is no such thing as Mughul nation in India, is there?”
    There was a Mughal *civilisation*. Nations/national states were not relevant back then, being basically an 18th-19th century European concept. This being said, Mughal civilisation did left a cultural/national outcome, that is the Urdu language which has Turkic and Persian components and is based on the language used in Mughal armies (Urdu=Turk.’ordu’, army).
    “Hmm… nice reference, but the word Uighur is not Russian. The fact that Russians “restored” the name for a group of people does not equate actually coming up with a distinct name for people.”
    No-one ever said that ‘Uighur’ is a Russian word. As I said, there was a medieval Uighur khanate in Mongolia whose memory was used to create a national myth by both Muslim nationalists in Xinjiang and the Soviets who influence/supported them at the time for the sake of Soviet agendas/interests (create client states against Chinese and British influence).
    “Especially given the fact that mongols, turks or arabs, to which you seem to attribute the term Tajik, had not reached a fraction of development Tajiks had in their time.”
    Aha? The Ottomans, the Mughals, Andalusia, the Bagdad Caliphate, … in their heydays? You can of course say, “yes, but they all had Persian elements in them: architecture, literature, science, Farsi as a lingua franca etc.”. That is true (be it much less so for Andalusia). Great achievements which were absorbed by other civilisations once Persian ones fell apart. This underlines once more that civilisations are a matter of interaction between different currents: former ones, and newcomers and that nothing is pure or someone’s monopoly. Why is that so difficult?
    It’s the same with that myth that the Persians became Muslims because they were forcibly converted by ‘Arab barbarians’. *To a certain* extent, manu military conversions happened. Yet a religion or ideology which is forced upon a culture does not lasts 1,300 years (look at Communism in Central Europe where it only lasted 45 years!). Claiming that Islam was forced upon the Persian by the Arabs –- a popular theory among dodgy and frustrated Pahlavi cronies in exile in the US and EU — is overlooking several things:

    a) the role of wandering Sufi preachers along the trade routes;

    b) the commercial contacts with the Arab world;

    c) the fact that pre-Islamic Persian-Zoroastrian societies has a caste system which frustrated the socially mobile who then found an alternative in Islam or, be it to a lesser extent, Christianity.

    Also, the Arab and Turkic warrior races put again some manhood into cultures that were, at that time, in full decadence and effemination.

    [BTW, reg. “Tajiks had in their time.” What do you refer to exactly? The Sogdians, the Acheamenid and Sassanid Persians, the Samanids, all of them?]

    Also, admit that modern-day Tajik identity as it is put forward by the regime in Tajikistan is basically a Soviet or very Soviet mind framed creation.

    Reply

  • Ian says:

    Following up on my promise to research the question of the early meaning of “Tajik” (and its relative, “Tazik”), I found the following references (with hopefully more to come):

    Richard Frye (Aga Khan Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Harvard) discusses the usage of “Tazi,” “Tazik,” and “Tajik” on pp. 96 and 98 in his book The Golden Age of Persia. He says that the word was originally used by Central Asian Turkic and Iranian peoples (like the Sogdians) to describe Arabs, who invaded Central Asia with armies composed of Turkic, western Persian, and Arabic soldiers.

    This is backed up by my reading of Nasir-i Khusrow’s Safarnama, in which the writer uses the phrase “zaban-i tazi” for the Arabic language. Nasir-i Khusrow was a member of the Ghaznavid court, before moving to Merv in Khorasan to work for the Seljuks. After his travels, he lived out his exile in Badakhshan. A good Persian/English edition of this work is Thackston’s.

    Frye also says that the word “Tazi,” or later “Tajik,” came to signify any Muslim in Central Asia. This was before the total conversion of the region, which took centuries. He quotes one historical source that tells of a Bukharan man who converts to Islam, at which point people begin to refer to him as a “Tazi.”

    At around the mid-eleventh century the word Tajik began to be used to differentiate Persian-speaking people, or people who identified as Persian, as attested in Bayhaqi’s history of the later Ghaznavids, “Tarikh-i Mas’udi”. He repeatedly uses the phrase “Tork o Tajik” to mean something like “everyone.” The differentiation may have been important to the Ghaznavids, because they were the first identifiably Turkic of the early Islamic dynasties. It may be that around this time, the ‘k’ was added to Taji, possibly because it is a common ending for Turkic adjectives, possibly for euphony in the phrase “Tork o Tajik.” An English translation of Bayhaqi doesn’t yet exist, but A. K. Arends made an excellent Russian translation last published in Moscow in 1969.

    As to the original etymology of the word (possibly coming from Ta’izz, one of the Arab tribes that constituted the army invading Central Asia), I haven’t found a good source yet. Any help would be appreciated.

    Reply

  • amirali says:

    dear friends i really really want to have friends in Uzbekistan and tajikestan would u please kindly help me i know English and farsi and some Arabic i am a translator,love u all ,happy nowrouz

    Reply

  • parviz says:

    The theory according to which the term Tajik has Arab orgigin is still controvercial for several reasons:
    First, the construction Tazi- Tojik is less explainable and looks rather dubious from the point of sintax of the both Pahlavi and Sogdian languages.
    Second, the word is met before the Arab invasion as a definition of Central Asian people – in Tibetian and Chinese sources (in the form tiaoji) the earliest of which is dated to the middle of II centure AD; Third, the term is rather recently found in Surkho Kotal document (so called king Kanishka documemt) written in two languages where the Baktrian version also contains the given term in the form Tadjikan.
    I’m not backing any of the above mentioned versions but i’m sure that no one of them could be cobsidered proven from the scientific point of view.

    Reply

  • Zoroastrian says:

    Hi to all,
    I’ve read most of your comments with a great appreciation and interest because I am Tajik who was raised in Russian speaking environment and now living in Australia ; )))
    All the facts and theories that were posted by you I found simply fascinating…

    Yet the most fascinating thing that I’ve noticed was a very high level of your English.
    Amazing! ))

    Could I ask you, Tajik Boy, Faramarz and Doroud, where you were born and raised?

    Reply

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