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History of the Persian Language Persian is spoken today primarily in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, but was historically a more widely understood language in an area ranging from the Middle East to India, significant populations of speakers in other Persian Gulf countries (Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Republic of Yemen and the United Arab Emirates), as well as large communities around the World. Total numbers of speakers is high: about 55% of Iran's population are Persian speakers; about 65% of Tajikistan's population are Tajik-Persian speakers: over 25% of the Afghanistan's population are Dari-Persian speakers; and about 1% of the population of Pakistan are Dari-Persian speakers as well.

History of the Persian Language Persian is spoken today primarily in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, but was historically a more widely understood language in an area ranging from the Middle East to India, significant populations of speakers in other Persian Gulf countries (Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Republic of Yemen and the United Arab Emirates), as well as large communities around the World. Total numbers of speakers is high: about 55% of Iran's population are Persian speakers; about 65% of Tajikistan's population are Tajik-Persian speakers: over 25% of the Afghanistan's population are Dari-Persian speakers; and about 1% of the population of Pakistan are Dari-Persian speakers as well.

Persian is a subgroup of West Iranian languages that include the closely related Persian languages of Dari and Tajik; the less closely related languages of Luri, Bakhtiari and Kumzari; and the non-Persian dialects of Fars Province. Other more distantly related languages of this group include Kurdish, spoken in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran; and Baluchi, spoken in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Even more distantly related are languages of the East Iranian group, which includes Pashtu, spoken in Afghanistan; Ossete, spoken in North Ossetian, South Ossetian, and Caucusus of former USSR; and Yaghnobi, spoken in Tajikistan.

Other Iranian languages of note are Old Persian and Avestan (the sacred language of the Zoroastrians for which texts exist from the 6th century B.C.). West and East Iranian comprise the Iranian group of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages.

Indo-Iranian languages are spoken in a wide area stretching from portions of eastern Turkey and eastern Iraq to western India. The other main division of Indo-Iranian, in addition to Iranian, is the Indo-Aryan languages; a group comprised of many languages of the Indian subcontinent, for example, Sanskrit, Hindi/Urdu, Bengali, Gujerati, Punjabi, and Sindhi. Scholars recognize three major dialect divisions of Persian: Farsi, or the Persian of Iran, Dari Persian of Afghanistan, and Tajik, a variant spoken in Tajikistan in Central Asia. We treat Tajik as a separate language, however.

Farsi and Dari have further dialectal variants, some with names that coincide with provincial names. All are more or less mutually intelligible. Persian in Iran and Afghanistan is written in a variety of the Arabic script called Perso-Arabic, which has some innovations to account for Persian phonological differences. This script came into use in Persia after the Islamic conquest in the seventh century. A variety of script forms: Nishki is a print type based closely on Arabic; Talik is a cultivated manuscript, with certain letters having reduced forms and others occasionally elongated in order to produce lines of equal length; and Shekesteh is also a manuscript, allowing for a greater variation of form and exhibiting extreme reduction of some letters Persian, until recent centuries, was culturally and historically one of the most prominent languages of the Middle East and regions beyond. For example, it was an important language during the reign of the Moguls in Indian where knowledge of Persian was cultivated and encouraged; its use in the courts of Mogul India ended in 1837, banned by officials of the East Indian Company (British Colonialism).

 Persian scholars were prominent in both Turkish and Indian courts during the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries in composing dictionaries and grammatical works. A Persian Indian vernacular developed and many colonial British officers learned their Persian from Indian scribes. Persian is the first language of about 55 percent of the population in Iran, and is the country's official language. It is the language of government, the media, and school instruction. Of the rest of Iran's population, 20 percent speak related Western Iranian languages and 25 percent speak Arabic, New Aramaic, Armenian, Georgian, Romany, and Turkic languages.

Old Persian is attested from the cuneiform inscriptions left by the Achaemenid dynasty (559 to 331 BC.) that ruled the lands known as the Realm of the Aryans (from which comes the name of the modern country Iran) up until the conquest of Alexander the Great. Middle Persian, also known as Pahlavi, after the Parthians who ruled Persia after the collapse of Alexander's Empire, is known chiefly through its use in Persian's pre-Islamic Zoroastrian religious writings.

The name of the modern Persian language is sometimes mentioned as Farsi in English texts. However, it is recommended to use to Persian instead of Farsi because the term has a history of use in Western languages and highlights connection with Persian Civilization and Cultural Heritage.

Visual arts

Although in the West the term Persian culture is commonly used, the inhabitants of this country have long called it Iran and themselves Iranians, rather than Persians. In accordance with popular usage, however, the term Persian will be used in this article to refer to the period before the advent of Islam in the 7th century ad—that is, the period of the ancient Persian empires—as well as to prehistoric times. Ceramics and clay figurines were the chief artworks of the prehistoric period, and architecture and sculpture predominated during the period of the first two Persian empires (6th century bc to 7th century ad). After the Arab conquest and the introduction of Islam in the 7th century ad, sculpture was little practiced but architecture flourished. Painting became a major art in the period from the 13th to the 17th century. In the 20th century these ancient arts were being revived, and traditional forms were combined with Western technology and contemporary materials. 

 After the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great in 331 bc, and the assumption of power by the Seleucid dynasty, Persian architecture followed the styles common to the Greek world. Subsequently, under the Parthian Arsacid dynasty, which lasted from about 250 bc to ad 226, a small number of buildings was constructed in native Persian style. The most notable monument of this period is a palace at Hatra (now al-Hadhr, Iraq), dating from the 1st or 2d century ad and exemplifying the use of the barrel vault on a grand scale. The vaults, heavy walls, and small rooms of this palace indicate a continuation of earlier Assyrian and Babylonian tradition. A great renaissance in architecture took place under the Sassanid dynasty, which ruled Persia from 226 until the Islamic conquest in 641. 

Other major structures include the mausoleums of the Mongol conqueror Tamerlane and his family at Samarqand, the Royal Mosque at Meshad-i-Murghab, and the vast madrasahs, or mosque schools, at Samarqand, all of which were erected during the 15th century. Under the Safavid dynasty (1502–1736), a vast number of mosques, palaces, tombs, and other structures were built. Common features in the mosques were onion-shaped domes on drums, barrel-vaulted porches, and pairs of towering minarets. A striking decoration was the corbel, a projection of stone or wood from the face of a wall, used in rows and tiers. These corbels, arranged to appear as series of intersecting miniature arches, are usually called stalactite corbels. Color was an important part of the architecture of this period, and the surfaces of the buildings were covered with ceramic tiles in glowing blue, green, yellow, and red. The most notable Safavid buildings were constructed at Esfahan, the capital at that period. The city, laid out in broad avenues, gardens, and canals, contained palaces, mosques, baths, bazaars, and caravansaries.

Since the 18th century, the architectural styles of western Europe have been adopted to an increasing degree in Iran. At the same time, traditional forms have remained vital, and native and imported elements have often been combined in the same building. Recently, unadorned steel and concrete structures, similar to those seen in other parts of the modern world, have been built as dwellings, public buildings, and factories.


Human beings are members of a whole, In creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, Other members uneasy will remain. If you have no sympathy for human pain, The name of human you cannot retain. These verses by great Iranian poet Sheik Sa’di is written in entrance to the Hall of Nations of the UN building in New York.

We can distinguish two periods of Persian poetry: one traditional, from the tenth to nearly mid, twentieth century; the other modernist, from about World War II to the present. Within the long period of traditional poetry, however, four periods can

be traced, each marked by a distinct stylistic development. The first of these, comprising roughly the tenth to the twelfth century, is characterized by a strong and an exalted style (sabk-e fakher). One may define this style (generally known as Khorasani, from the association of most of its earlier representatives with Greater Khorasan) by its lofty diction, dignified tone, and highly literate language. The second, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, is marked by the prominence of lyric poetry, the consequent development of the ghazal into the most significant verse form, and the diffusion of mystical thought. Its style is generally dubbed Eraqi because of the association of some of its earlier exponents with central and western Persia (even though its two major representatives, Sadi and Hafez, were from the southern province of Fars); it is known by its lyric quality, tenderness of feeling, mellifluous meters, and the relative simplicity of its language.

The third period, which extends from the fifteenth well into the eighteenth century, is associated with the Indian style of Persian poetry (sometimes called Isfahani or Safavi). It has its beginning in the Timurid period and is marked by an even greater prominence of lyric poetry, although it is somewhat devoid of the linguistic elegance and musicality of the preceding period. The poets of this period often busied themselves with exploring subtle thoughts and far fetched images and elaborating upon worn-out traditional ideas and metaphors. The fourth period, from approximately the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century, is known as the Literary Revival (bazgasht-e adabi).It features a reaction against the poetic stagnation and linguistic foibles of the late Safavid style, and a return to the Eraqi style of lyric poetry and the Khorasani style. 

 With Ferdowsi's immortal poem, the Shah-nama, epic poetry rose to the height of its achievement almost at its beginning. Hailed as the greatest monument of Persian language and one of the major world epics, it consists of some fifty thousand couplets relating the history of the Iranian nation in myth, legend, and fact, from the beginning of the world to the fall of the Sassanian Empire. Ferdowsi, who belonged to the landed gentry (dehqan) and was well versed in Iranian cultural heritage and lore, fully understood the sense and direction of the work he was versifying. His approximately thirty years of labor produced a magnificent epic of tremendous impact. 

 A new height in Persian lyric poetry is reached in the thirteenth century with Sadi, a versatile poet and writer of rare passion and eloquence. He holds a position in Persian literature, in terms of the power of expression and the depth and breadth of his sensibilities, comparable to that of Shakespeare in English letters. His sparkling ghazals display a youthful love of life and passion for beauty, be it natural, human, or divine. Sadi's dexterous use of rhetorical devices is often disguised by the beguiling ease of his locution and the effortless flow of his style; his masterly language has been a model of elegant and graceful writing.

The culmination of Persian lyric poetry was reached about a hundred years after Sadi with Hafez, the most delicate and most popular of Persian poets. His ghazals are typical in their content and motifs but exceptional in their combination of noble sentiments, powerful expression elegance of diction and felicity of imagery. His world-view encompasses many Gnostic, mystical, and stoic sentiments, which were the common cultural heritage of his age. While Hafez's satirical lines against pretense and hypocrisy lend a biting edge to his lyrics, his philosophical outlook and Gnostic longings impart an exalted air of wisdom and detachment to his poems. But he is above all a poet of love who celebrates in his ghazals the glory of human beauty and the passion of love. Belief in a mystical "inner meaning" of Hafez's poetry represents the application of a bateni, or esoteric principle, which distorts his meaning and flies in the face of his poetic sense. Hafez is the most notable satirist Persia has produced. Poignant gibes at the hypocritical, judges, professional Sufis, and other pretenders to virtue form an integral part of his ghazals and (following his model) are a common theme of Persian lyrics. The liberal Hafez strongly felt the sting of pretense and cant; to express his outrage was as much a motive for his writing as were his aesthetic and amorous sentiments. But his subtle wit and his magnanimity keep his lyrics from being bitter. Siding with sinners and tavern dwellers, championing the Fends and the kharabatis - the "hippies" of his time - are essentially his protests against the narrow views and bigotry of the establishment, and part of his satirical thrust. To read mystical meanings into all this is to miss the intent and the sense of Hafez's poetry to the detriment of his real worth.

Modernist poetry, namely, a poetry which departs radically from the traditional school of the old masters, began to emerge only after World War II, when the deep social changes which had been developing for some time finally challenged the venerable literary tradition in a drastic fashion and eroded its foundations. It not only dispensed with the necessity of rhyme and consistent meter, but it also rejected the imagery of traditional poetry and departed noticeably from its mode of expression.

 Nima Yushij (1897-1960), the father of modernist poetry, died in relative obscurity, but after World War II a number of young poets took up his cause, fighting against the shackles of literary conventions and writing free verse, sometimes with a vengeance. The vogue gathered momentum, and by the late 1950s it had become the dominant mode of avant-garde Persian poetry. Most of the contemporary literary movements in the West, from the Symbolist to Imagist schools, have found exponents among modernist Persian poets.

In modernist poetry, all formal canons, thematic and imagistic conventions, as well as mystical dimensions of the traditional school are by and large abandoned, and the poets feel free to adapt the form of their poems to the requirements of their individual tastes and artistic outlooks. Hence the great variety of styles among modernist poets. Akhavan-e Thaleth, also a follower of the Nima school, has produced among others, long poems of veiled protest and of epic quality. In Sepehri, a poet of serene simplicity but overweening imagery, we find an original poet singing in praise of the simple pleasures of life and basking in the contemplation of nature.

 Theatre & Cinema

The most popular form of entertainment in Iran is the cinema. Cinema is also an important medium for social and political commentary. Iran's film industry became one of the finest in the world, with festivals of Iranian films being held annually throughout the world. Directors Bahram Bayzaʾi, Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and Dariyush Mehrjuʾi produced films that won numerous awards at international festivals, including Cannes (France) and Locarno (Switzerland), and a new generation of women film directors—among them Rakhshan Bani Eʿtemad (Blue Scarf, 1995) and Tahmineh Milani (Two Women, 1999)—has also emerged. Fajr Film Festival is arranged annually in Tehrān and has gained international recognition in recent years. Iranian and foreign films are screened and are awarded.

The nearest thing to the theater in Iran used to be the religious re-enactment of holy stories, known as ta’zie, but theater in European style was introduced to Iran only in the second decade of the 20th century. Initial work was concentrated in Tehran and Rasht. The quick advent of cinema and, later, television in Iran soon after the introduction of theater left little initial opportunity for the latter’s development.

The first cinema hall was constructed in Tehran in the late 1920’s. However, foreign films were the only source for cinemas, and these were shown with sub-titles. Dubbing into the Persian began in 1948, while serious shooting of Iranian films did not begin until 1950. Iranian Young Cinema society was founded in 1974 and its statute officially was approved by the then Supreme Consultative of Culture & Art in 1975. But it was after the Islamic Revolution of Iran that the society started its activities with new policies and aims in 1985 which as follows, to flourish the creativities and talents of the enthusiastic youths who are interested in film making and photography with regard to the national and Islamic culture and values. To train the enthusiastic youths in order to improve their cine culture. To conduct the processes of film making, and amateur photography in Iran.

In the beginning, Iranian Young Cinema Society mainly focused its activities on producing 8 & 16 mm films through establishing training courses, thereafter, holding regional and annual festivals were also taken into Consideration in the frame of its programs. The society started its activities along with its four offices in Tehran and at the present time the society has established fifty branches throughout the country.


Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians are the most significant religious minorities. Christians are the largest group, Orthodox Armenians constituting the bulk. The Assyrians are Nestorian, Protestant, and Roman Catholic, as are a few converts from other ethnic groups. The Zoroastrians are largely concentrated in Yazd in central Iran, Kermān in the southeast, and Tehrān.

These religious minorities are spread all over the country; they practice their own rituals and add to the beauty of this country living in peace and harmony with the Islamic majority. All these different religious groups’ have permanent representatives in House of Parlament. 


The first musical instrument that was used thousands of years ago in Iran was the reed, a simple tube with several perforations that was played mostly by shepherds.

An engraved bronze cup from Lurestan at the National Museum of Iran, Tehran, portrays a double nay (reed pipes), chang (harp) and dayereh (tambourine) in a shrine or court processional. Music continued to play an important role in the lives of the Persians throughout their history, with its continuity well documented in the Safavīd frescoes of the Chehel Sutūn in Esfehān, dated 1647 AD. A major revival in Persian music has its inception late in the reign of Nāser od-Din Shah of Qājār dynasty (died in 1896 AD), who commanded the establishment of the House of Crafts, a center where all important craftsmen could be gathered for making and marketing their instruments. The first musical instrument that was used thousands of years ago in Iran was the reed, a simple tube with several perforations that was played mostly by shepherds. There were several kinds of these reeds: the Nay Labak or the small reed which later developed into the piccolo of today; the Haft Band reed, which was much larger and had seven perforations; and the Nay Anban, a reed which was connected to a wind bag. This looked and sounded much like the bagpipes of Scotland.

According to Herodotus such musical instruments were in wide use in the Achaemenian era as many as 2,500 years ago. There are also several other wind instruments in Iran dating back to ancient times. One of these is the Sorna, a woodwind instrument very much like the oboe. Another one is the Karna, a long wooden horn which was used for accompanying the Sorna in what was called Naqareh Khaneh music. Both of these instruments have fallen into disuse and their place has been taken by the modern oboe and clarinet as well as other woodwind instruments.

The Kamancheh , an ancient Iranian musical instrument, is probably the first ancestor of the present-day violin, the cello, the viola and the base.

The Kamancheh , an ancient Iranian musical instrument, is probably the first ancestor of the present-day violin, the cello, the viola and the base. This instrument, having the size of a violin is played cello-like in a vertical position and set on the knee of the player who uses an arched bow. Another bowstring instrument is the Ghazhak, which sound-wise resembles the Kamancheh. The instrument, no longer in general use, can still be found in Iranian Baluchistan. In Tajikistan and Uzbakistan it is called Ghichak. The Kamancheh is also popular in many Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. In India and Pakistan the instrument is called Sarengi. An ancient Iranian string instrument was the Barbat, which was very much in vogue prior to the advent of Islam. Iranian minstrels later took the instrument to the Arabian Peninsula and there the Arabs called it Al Ud, giving rise to the English word lute. The lute survived in Iran until the Safavīd period, some 500 years ago, when it gradually went into oblivion.

However, several years ago efforts were made to revive public interest in the old instrument and today there are several excellent performers in Iran. Iran’s most popular musical instrument is the Tar, which in Persian means the string. This is a string instrument with a pear-shaped body and six strings. Then there is the Seh Tar, a three-stringed instrument of the same general shape, which is plucked by the fingers Another very ancient instrument is the Santoor. This is a large horizontal sounding box over which are stretched numerous strings. It is played with plectrum and sometimes with fingers. It is much like the zither both in shape and in tonality. There are several percussion instruments of Iranian origin, the biggest and loudest of which is the Dohol, which is played with two heavy sticks. Then there are the Dayereh, the Dayereh Zangi, and the Tonbak.

Today almost all these instruments exist and play an important role in Iranians music life. Recorded traditional music with voice of master vocalist Shajaryān singing poems of hafiz can be found in all Iranian homes. Some new trends of west influenced music have also found its way to Iran, Iranian pop music is popular among younger generation. Younger musicians are experimenting, mixing the new music with the traditional one and sometimes creating nice original music.

Iranians are great music lovers and during the course of their twenty-five centuries of their recorded history, they have developed not only a very distinctive music of their own but also numerous musical instruments, several of which were the first prototypes of the modern musical instruments of today. The first references to musicians in Iran are found in Susa.

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19 May 2019
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