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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.


Narody Perednei Azii. Moscow, 1957. (Bibliography on pp. 556-57.)


References in classic literature ?
The Persian was equally captivated by Noureddin, and said to herself: "The vizir does me too great honour in buying me for the king.
Some time having elapsed, on account of the long journey, since the beautiful Persian had been to the bath, five or six days after her purchase the vizir's wife gave orders that the bath should be heated for her, and that her own female slaves should attend her there, and after-wards should array her in a magnificent dress that had been prepared for her.
Her toilet completed, the beautiful Persian came to present herself to the vizir's wife, who hardly recognised her, so greatly was her beauty increased.
Acting forthwith on this decision she ordered two little slaves during her absence to watch over the beautiful Persian, and not to allow Noureddin to enter should he come.
She had no sooner gone than he arrived, and not finding his mother in her apartment, would have sought her in that of the Persian.
Much astonished to see the vizir's wife enter in tears, the Persian asked what misfortune had happened.
But, madam," inquired the Persian, "what harm is there in that?
Khacan, entering shortly after this, was much astonished to find his wife and her slaves in tears, and the beautiful Persian greatly perturbed.
I will come to his aid, and while pointing out that you only yield his life at my supplications, you can force him to take the beautiful Persian on any conditions you please.
I pardon you on her intercession, and on the conditions that you take the beautiful Persian for your wife, and not your slave, that you never sell her, nor put her away.
The vizir, feeling that his end was at hand, sent for Noureddin, and charged him with his dying breath never to part with the beautiful Persian.
Sometimes the fair Persian consented to appear at these festivities, but she disapproved of this lavish expenditure, and did not scruple to warn Noureddin of the probable consequences.