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(Farsi; self-designation, Irani, Iranian [plural]), a nation (natsiia, nation in the historical sense) constituting about half of the population of Iran. According to the first Iranian general census in late 1956, there were about 9 million Persians; an estimate for 1974 put the figure at about 16 million. Persians live chiefly in central Iran (south of the Elburz Mountains) and in eastern Iran. They speak Persian (Farsi) and belong to the southern branch of the Caucasoid race.
Iranian tribes from Middle Asia or Transcaucasia probably penetrated into what is now Iran during the second millennium B.C. Persian tribes assumed a dominant position in the Achaeme-nid state. Arab, Turkic, and Mongolian tribes were subsequently assimilated by the Persians, who developed into a nation in the mid-19th century. Persians have continued to assimilate other nationalities in Iran, especially those speaking languages of the Iranian group.
Persians are Shiite Muslims. Islam was adopted in the seventh century, after the Arab conquest of Persia. Previously, Persians had professed Zoroastrianism, which was preserved among the Gabars in a somewhat altered form. The majority of Persians are rural inhabitants engaged in farming (which is greatly dependent on irrigation), fruit and vegetable raising, and livestock breeding. Cottage industries include rug-making and handweaving. Many Persians living in urban areas are artisans, merchants, or office workers. Persians also constitute a significant proportion of the country’s work force.
To this day, the traditions of Muslim law remain strong in Persian family life. Women received the right to vote in 1963, but their de facto inequality in social and family life remains.
The oral folk traditions of the Persians are extremely rich, as are their theater, poetry, literature, and other aspects of medieval and modern culture.
REFERENCENarody Perednei Azii. Moscow, 1957. (Bibliography on pp. 556-57.)
M. S. IVANOV