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Studies on Iran and The Caucasus

In Honour of Garnik Asatrian

Edited by Uwe Bläsing, Victoria Arakelova and Matthias Weinreich

This unique collection of essays by leading international scholars gives a profound introduction into the great diversity and richness of facets forming the study of one of earth’s most exciting areas, the Iranian and Caucasian lands. Each of the 37 contributions sheds light on a very special topic, the range of which comprises historical, cultural, ethnographical, religious, political and last but not least literary and linguistic issues, beginning from the late antiquity up to current times. Especially during the last decennia these two regions gained greater interest worldwide due to several developments in politics and culture. This fact grants the book, intended as a festschrift for Prof. Garnik Asatrian, a special relevance.

Contributors: Victoria Arakelova; Marco Bais; Uwe Bläsing; Vahe S. Boyajian; Claudia A. Ciancaglini; Johnny Cheung; Viacheslav A. Chirikba; Matteo Compareti; Caspar ten Dam; Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst; Kaveh Farrokh; Aldo Ferrari; Ela Filippone; Khachik Gevorgian; Jost Gippert; Nagihan Haliloğlu; Elif Kanca; Pascal Kluge; Anna Krasnowolska; Vladimir Livshits; Hirotake Maeda; Irina Morozova; Irène Natchkebia; Peter Nicolaus; Antonio Panaino; Mikhail Pelevin; Adriano V. Rossi; James R. Russell; Dan Shapira; Wolfgang Schulze; Martin Schwarz; Roman Smbatian; Donald Stilo; Çakır Ceyhan Suvari; Giusto Traina; Garry Trompf; Matthias Weinreich; Eberhardt Werner and Boghos Zekiyan

Nagihan Haliloğlu


This study aims to explore the trajectory of the meanings of masculinity from pre-revolution to post-revolution Iran, as represented in Marjane Satrapi’s work. Both Chicken with Plums and Persepolis are autobiographical works that chart her relationship with male members of her middle class family and country at large before, through and after the revolution. She provides a nuanced understanding of masculinity that recognizes plurality and hierarchy- men as lay people, as members of a family, as practioners of art, within a historical context. In both her memoirs men and women suffer from ideals of manhood and womanhood presented to them, calling into question whether men are beneficiaries of the patriarchal order of the pre or post-revolution Iran. Satrapi demonstrates how the most important building block of masculinity has changed, from class and professional membership to piety in post-revolution Iran. She also exposes masculinity’s core element to be self-sacrifice. It is the regime, capitalist or Islamist, that seems to decide for what those sacrifices are to be made. However, Satrapi tries to salvage an understanding of masculinity that has honour and comradeship at its core and acquaints the reader with practitioners of this gender model as she would have it be.

Çakır Ceyhan Suvari and Elif Kanca


This paper is an attempt at exploring different interpretations of Alevism and Alevi identities, having emerged as a result of rapid and large-wave migrations, particulalry from 1960 onwards, from the countryside to the urban centres of Turkey. Those Alevis, who had become more and more isolated from the larger Alevi community and each other, ended up divided into different religious and ideological sects. Emergence of various Alevi associations and foundations proved unable to prevent such disintegration. On the contrary, it was the newly established Alevi institutions, emerging upon different bases, which actually heterogenised the Alevi phenomenon. Today, each Alevi institution in fact promotes its own particular perception of Alevism; the latter may even vary among family members. Therefore, it will be more accurate to speak of Alevi identities rather than of a single, unified Alevi identity in today’s Turkey.

Claudia A. Ciancaglini


This paper investigates the Middle Persian continuants of a very widespread derivative suffix, OIr. -ka-, which is generally claimed to have had only one outcome in Middle Persian, namely -Vg, written ‹-k'›. As is known, this outcome gave raise to a number of different Middle Persian suffixes, for instance -ag, -āg, -īg etc., through the reanalysis of the preceding vowel as a part of the suffix. I wish to demonstrate that already in Middle Persian, and not just in New Persian, OIr. -ka- had many other minority outcomes that have never been recognised in the previous studies. I also wish to underline that these allotropes, not all of which are perceived, and function, as true suffixes in Middle Persian synchronically, are sometimes explicitly marked in the Pahlavi script, notwithstanding its well-known ambiguous and archaizing nature. Finally, I suggest that the presence already in Middle Persian of different outcomes of OIr. -ka- can partly depend on early borrowing processes among Middle Iranian dialects, and partly reflect different diachronic stages of the lenition process undergone by the OIr. voiceless velar plosive in internal and final postvocalic position.

Garry W. Trompf


It is not well known that the great natural philosopher Sir Isaac Newton looked to the Biblical revelations in the setting of Mount Ararat as the key to the solution of early modern Europe’s socioreligious ills. When Jesus gave his twin commandments to love God and one’s fellow humans, in Newton’s view he was distilling the Seven Precepts delivered to Noah after the Flood, regulations accepted in Judaism as preparatory to the Ten Commandments. For Newton this primary ‘true religion’ had the power to heal the nations, and this paper explores how this platform and Newton’s irenic commitments were taken up in the transition from the ‘Scientific Revolution’ to the eighteenth century’s ‘Enlightenment.’ His position connects with the agendas of Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Priestly and Paine (among others), and, although the appeal to the twin loves of God and neighbour were often eviscerated of their original religious purport, they persisted in the development of modern political liberalism, lying behind John Stuart Mill’s dictum that we can do what we like so long as we do not harm others.

Matteo Compareti


The present paper is an attempt to investigate pre-Christian Armenian religious iconography. It is highly probable that pre-Christian Armenian deities presented some connections with pre-Islamic Persian divinities. As it is suggested in early Christian Armenian and in Middle Persian literature, all these divinities concerned Zoroastrian religion. The main idea is that not only some images could have been re-used by the Christians to represent their holy images (several saints and the Virgin Mary) but that a common visual language probably had existed on a very wide area from Anatolia to Central Asia through the Caucasus and Persia. Some other scholars had already suggested a connection between pre-Christian Armenian terracotta statuettes and the production of those same objects in Central Asia. Some other common characteristics could be found even in much farer away Iranian lands such as in Khotan.

Martin Schwartz


The paper discusses critically the etymology of classical Armenian varkaparazi (“at random, by chance, in a disorderly manner”) proposed by the late Anahit Périkhanian in 2002, and offer an alternative etymology. It is thanks to Dr. Périkhanian’s calling attention to varkaparazi, and her providing a partial starting direction toward its etymology that, albeit with the rejection of her overall interpretation, we have gained a lost Iranian compound whose members are of noteworthy interest for the history of the Iranian vocabulary.

Wolfgang Schulze


The paper examines some aspects of language contact in the regions of present-day Azerbaijan focusing on the Southeast Caucasian language Udi and its ancestor (Caucasian Albanian). Both languages are marked for a rather pronounced impact from languages that must have played a dominant role since Classical antiquity and in Medieval times. Here, at least three layers can easily be isolated: (a) Old Armenian, (b) both Northwest Iranian and Southwest Iranian, (c) Turkic in terms of Oghuz Turkic (Azeri). Both (Early) Modern Persian and Azeri conditioned that Udi was later-on at least partly integrated into the world of Oriental language despite of the fact that its speakers remained Christians. The pre-Oriental impact from Armenian and (mainly northwest) Iranian languages resulted in significant shifts with respect to both the lexicon and the grammar of Caucasian Albanian and Udi that set apart both languages from the world of Lezgian languages. The paper illustrates the presence of different Iranian layers in Caucasian Albanian and Udi, addressing both lexical and morphosyntactic issues. With respect to morphosyntax, two topics are discussed, namely the emergence of Split-O strategies in Caucasian Albanian and Udi and the development of a system of floating agreement clitics. Both patterns represent instances of structural borrowings from local Iranian languages, which likewise testifies the former relevance of Iranian languages in Central Azerbaijan.

Viacheslav A. Chirikba


The paper presents a brief survey of the traditional religious practices as still, or until recent times, observed in the Caucasus. I postulate the possibility of a pan-Caucasian “mythological union” formed over centuries between all the Caucasian communities, and discuss in some detail a local “mythological union” on the example of the lightning ritual Čoppa.

Although the pre-monotheistic heritage, partially intertwining with the official religions, still constitutes an intimate part of the identity of some Caucasians communities, it is slowly fading in the shadow of the mainstream religions—Christianity and Islam, which have become a strong unifying factor in the post-Soviet period.

Jost Gippert


The paper deals with the identification of the so-called “Bun-Turks” that are mentioned in several historical texts as a tribe which settled in Georgia in prehistoric times. On the basis of a thorough comparison of the relevant Georgian and other sources, the term is shown to have emerged from a corruption of the name of the Huns, which occurs in similar contexts, together with other designations of Turkic tribes. The available text materials further suggest that the historical basis for the mentioning of the “Bun-Turks” as settlers in Georgia was the Khazar attacks of the VIth-VIIth centuries, which were secondarily re-projected into prehistoric times.