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Azer Ziyadli, Farid Alekberli, Ph.D.


We frequently encounter English–language research regarding the lineage of the Qajar tribe, most of which reflects history in the light of the Shah’s dynasty bloodline. The genealogy of Turkic tribes was already studied in the 13th century by Fadlullah Rashid ad-Din and Abulgazi. The lineage of the Qajar dynasty is elaborately laid out in the book “Ma’asir-i Sultaniyya” (or Jamia Haqqani) of the Qajar’s dynasty historian Abd ar-Razzak Bey “Maftuna” ibn Najaf Kuli Dunbuli (1762-1827), a Beylebey (governor, landlord and protector) of Tabriz and the favorite of the eldest son of Fatah Ali Shah, a naib (the envoy) to the sultan Abbac Mirza. The book describes the history of Fath Ali-Shah Qajar up until the year 1814, as well as short stories regarding his predecessors.
Likewise, this same topic is closely examined in Abbas Kuli Agha Bakikhanov’s book “Gulistan-i Iram”. Genghis Qajar‘s “Qajars” offers an analysis of the dynasty’s genealogy that argues the undisputed Turkic origin of the tribe.1
In the words of А. А. Bakikhanov: “The Qajars are a tribe belonging to the group of Jalair Turks, who were themselves part of the two hundred thousand families moved to Persia by Hulagu Khan (grandson to Genghis Khan).” According to “Ma’asir-i Sultaniyya”, a history of the Qajars: “Sartak was one of the most influential members of the tribe, and atabey (an advisor) to the state ruler of Ilkhanid - Arghun Khan, and was himself the ruler of Khorasan and Tabaristan. He had a son by the name of Qajar, originator of the tribe. Many of these Qajars were state officials under Safavid Shahs and governed the land of Irevan and Shirvan. They were ancestors to the Khans of Irevan and Ganja, whose last line, Ziyadoglu, owned the lands from the Khudafarin (Khoda Afarin) bridge to the Shulaver village, which is higher than the Red Bridge in Georgia».2
The fact that Arghun Khan belonged to the Genghis clan kick-started a discussion about the Mongolian origin of the Qajar, and as a result, their illegitimate rule as occupants – a discussion that has lasted in Iran since the time of the Pahlavi dynasty.
On the other hand, the voices of the descendants of the overthrown Qajar dynasty are heard from the Europe where various investigations are published. In this research they not only reject any connection between the Qajars and the Mongols, but attribute their roots to the Iranians and to the Persians who have now adopted Turkic ways.

In the following article, we present a collection of factual evidence and theories dedicated to the history of the origins of the Qajar tribe.

1. The meaning of the word ‘Mongol’ in the time of Genghis Khan and the Ilkhanids

The Russian researcher of Mongolian culture B. Ya. Vladimirov wrote: “In the twelfth century, the aristocratic family of Habul-Khan bore the name of “Bordjigin” and took the name of “Mongol” as its own shortly after the conquest and unification of several neighbouring families and tribes, thus creating one political unit [in 1130], one “clan-ulus”; that very same “ulus” was given the name of “Mongol” in honour of the great name of an ancient and powerful nation or family”.3
In various Khitan and Chinese sources of the twelfth century, these tribes were referenced to by the following names: “meng-ku”, “meng-uli”, “meng-uzsi”, and “mengugo”.
What does the word “Mongol” mean? The debates circulating this ethnonym are on going, even today. Many meanings are put forward, but as it is often the case in academic debate, people don’t notice the obvious and simple answer which usually floats on the surface.
As it has been noted, in Khitan and Chinese sources, the word is made up of two roots: “meng(k)u” and “el”.
Nomads had their own understanding of a state system, which completely differed from the system adopted by settlers. For nomads, a state also meant an army. The body of this state army was called “budun” (their own people), and the country itself was called “el”. Ancient Turks called their state “the eternal el”.
The term “el” is extremely poly-semantic. This civic category is used by many Turkic-speaking peoples to mean “community”, “a group of people”, “subjects”. According to L. N. Gumilev “el” submits itself domestically to other tribes, according to the analogy with the meaning of the Latin word “imperium” or the Russian word “derjava”.4
S. V. Kiselyov defined “el” as a union of noble families of various tribes, which created a cohesive aristocratic class, whose traditions were borrowed from the tribal system.5
V. V. Trepavlov interpreted “el” as a social hierarchy of military and civil aristocracy, which could also encompass the aristocracy of conquered nations.6

Modern Mongolian language translates the word “möngke” as “eternal”.7 According to the etymological dictionary, the root “mön” in Altaic and Turkic languages bears the meaning of “self”, “essence”, “true”, “that very one”.8
In the letter of Guyuk Khan, the grandson and heir of Genghis Khan, addressed to Pope Innocent III, the Khan‘s seal contains the following sentence: “Мөнх Тэнгэрийн кучунтур” (“Mönkh Tengeriyn kuchuntur”), which in translation means “Under Tengri’s Eternal Power”.
As previously mentioned, ancient Turks named their empire “eternal el”, which in Ancient Turkic would be «Möng El». This is where the name of the Mongol empire comes from.
By drawing conclusion from the above information, it is possible to consider the word “Mongol” as having an imperial status in the Ilkhanid times. For a better understanding of the word, we may draw an analogy with the Roman Empire, where every free citizen, regardless of origin, was considered a Roman.

2. Were there Turks in Iran and Azerbaijan before the arrival of Genghis Khan?

The presence of Turkic communities on the territory of modern Azerbaijan can be proved with the help of direct and secondary references in the medieval sources.
Historian Z. M. Buniyatov wrote: «In 576 there was a mass migration of Huns-sabirs to the area of Ganja (Sakashena) (“Byzantine historians” page 411—412), thus the land of Huns was based between two rivers - Kura and Araks. The same evidence is made in Georgian chronicles describing “fierce rebels of so-called Bunturks living by Kura river” (S. Takayshvili, page 1, 5; М. Melikset-Bey “The history of the Huns clan in Easter Caucasus”, page 710—711; А. Аrtamonov, “Essay…”, page 54). The Arab authors called the leaders of Huns clan “Tarkhans” (al-Balazuri, 209, al-Tabari, III, 1179, 1192)”. 9
The Huns, settled in Mugan, the territory of the modern Azerbaijan, were one of the biggest Turkic tribes in the 5th century. At that time historians called them Turk (Feofilakt Simmokatta, pages 36, 77, 102, 160: “He [Kubad I] went to the tribe of Huns which our history has repeatedly called Turk”.10
There is a hypothesis that Huns have established a city Ak-gun (Arabic name Balasagun) on the south of Mugan (Marquardt, Eransahr S. 119).11
Huns are called haylanturks in the Armenian-language sources (Marquardt, Eransahr S. 95). Describing the events of the second part of the 4th century, Pavstos Buzand (Faustus of Byzantium), noted the presence of Huns and other Turks in the Caucasus (P.Buzand “History of Armenia”, page 15. See М. Melikset-Bey, essay, page 712).12
Till the end of reign of Sassanid Kawada, the Northern Azerbaijan was ruled by Khazars, majority of which were Turks (al-Balazuri, 194, al-Yakubi, 203, Ibn Al-Fakikh, 287, Ibn Khordadbekh, 222). Arabs called these countries including Azerbaijan “The land of Khazar” (al-Balazuri, page 194, at-Tabari I, 884). According to Ibn A’tham al-Kufi, the Turkic language was spread in the valley of Araks, in the area of Baylakana and Varsana (А'tham аl-Кufi. Kitab al-Futuh, Topkapi).13
The references made previously in this article, on invasion of Khazars to Aran and Azerbaijan as well as their long-standing domination of Aran, prove again the presence of a large number of the Turkic-language elements on the territory of Azerbaijan, long before the invasion of Arabs.14
The process of turkization of Azerbaijan and Aran started during the Sassanid Empire, long before Arabs emerged on the political arena. The immersion of Arabs in Azerbaijan and its colonization, delayed the process at the beginning, but the assimilation of Arabs and Turks speeded up the process and in around one hundred years it has become massive.
During the conquest of Azerbaijan and Aran, Arabs faced the presence of the Turkic tribes on these territories. The Arabic sources also mention the presence of Turks in Azerbaijan before the invasion. As the legend says, Umayyad caliph Muawiyah once asked Yemenis Abid ibn Shariya: “What are the Turks and Azerbaijan?”. Abid replied: “Azerbaijan is the country inhabited by Turks since the ancient times” (اشيم كتابهائیالتيجان حيدراباد, Ibn Hashim - Kitab Altijan, Hejdarabad; Togan A. Zeki Validi, Umumi turk tarihine giriş, s.166, Kirzioglu M. Fahrettin, Dede Korkut Oguznameleri, s. 27).15
This source could be considered questionable, if the same fact has not been met again by the authors in the Persian manuscript written by anonymous in 1126. Describing Himyarite queen Raisha, anonymous notes: “Azerbaijan is the country ruled by Turks” (مجملالتواريخوالقصص , Mejmul al-tavarikh ve al-geses, p.103).16
Resettlement of Turks in Azerbaijan did not stop during Arabic reign. So, one of the Turkic emirs Mubarak at-Turki, already converted Muslim, has built a fortress in Kazvin and named it after himself (ديوانلغاتايلترك, Divan lugat al-turk, P.K.Zhuze).17
The assimilation of Arabs with local Turks, which has began in Azerbaijan during the Umayyads, has intensified during the reign of the Abbasids.

3. Were there Turks in Iran and Azerbaijan in the 5th century?

As mentioned by Strabo in the “Geography”, the territory of modern Azerbaijan and Northern Iran was inhabited by Albanians and Parthians. Describing the Albanians, Strabo writes that they are: “...the same nomads who were relatively civilized and for this reason have lost their warrior attitude“.18
According to Jordan these lands were inhabited by Huns, Albanians and Seres (Sires): “Then it bends back to the left behind the Caspian Sea, which comes from the North-Eastern Ocean in the most distant parts of Asia, and so is formed like a mushroom, at first narrow and then broad and round in shape. It extends as far as the Huns, Albani and Seres. This land, I say,-- namely, Scythia”.19
In ancient sources, Seres are barbaric nomad tribes living around China. Strabo mentioned Seres and Frones as well. In his essay he refers to the earlier source, Apollodorus, who describes Seres and Frones tribes in his notes.
Jordan, and Cassiodorus before him, identified Frones with eastern Huns (hsiung-nu), who lived by the Chinese border. All Turkic speaking tribes living in the region were called Seres by the Greeks. Jordan begins his description with the European Huns, then continues with the Caucasian Albanians and finally reaches the Eastern Huns: “Scythia, which stretches far and wide, borders on the East with Seres, people who used to live by the shores of the Caspian Sea”. Jordan calls Seres as the end point of Scythia and notes that Huns and Albanians live on this side of the Caspian Sea, while the Seres left to the East. He also identifies the Albanians, Huns and Seres as Scythians.
Thus, various nomads and tribes, united by the common name Scythians and identical to the Turkic speaking Huns used to live on these lands. Herodotus mentioned the Kingdom of Scythians in the land of then Media.20
Scythians have not left us any texts to identify their language. Therefore, in science there are several trends and hypotheses to classify the ethnic identity of Scythians. One of the trends, led by the linguist R. Latham, is based on the Turkic language of the Scythians.21 The second trend, led by V. Miller22 and V.Abayev23 alleged Iranian-multilingualism. And finally, the third trend led by N. Y. Marr, considered Semite-multilingualism of Scythians, but this idea was not supported by others scientists.24
In the Soviet and European science, with the support of V. Miller and V. Abayev, the hypotheses of Iranian multilingualism was spreading fast, although the arguments were very questionable. The failure of this hypotheses was proved by Z. G. Hasanov in his book “Royal Scythians”25, which presents an extensive study, in a scope and details exceeding all previous ones.
In his book Z. G. Hasanov identifies Scythians with “Ishguz” from Aramaic sources, who in turn are recognized as Guz (Oguz). It should be noted, that all scientist agreed on one thing – the Scythians as nomads later merged with nomadic Huns, and become turkified.
One of the most famous kingdoms of Scythians (Saka) in Azerbaijan was Sakasena, which is unanimously identified with Shaki – a name of the city located in the same region of modern Azerbaijan. 26
The mentioning of Varsana by antients authors represents a particular value for us. Z. M. Bunyatov, the author of “Shams al-Lugat”, interpreting the word “varsan”, notes that one of its two meanings is “[Varsan] name of the place” (Shams al-lugat, Vol II, Manuscript Fund of the Academy of Science of Azerbaijan SSR, Inv. № 9284, page 437). The very same meaning is given to it in the “Farhang-i Jahangiri”: “Varsaz — the name of the place” (فرهنگجهانگيري-, Farhang-i Jahangiri, Manuscript Fund of the Academy of Science of Azerbaijan SSR, 1047 Inv. 92/2058, page 227). The author of the dictionary “Burkhan-Qati” translates the word “varsaz” as the “name of a place, area”. (برهانقاطي Burhan-Qati - Manuscript Fund of the Academy of Science of Azerbaijan SSR, Inv. 1349, page 269).27

As you can see, all these sources define the word “varsaz” as a name of a country, region or area. Then which country? In the dictionary of S. Sami “varsan” is the name given to all Azerbaijan or to a part of it ( ش. سام،-قاموس،استانبول،- S.Sami- Istanbul). This interpretation is given on the basis of Arabic studies where the facts of twofold pronunciation of “Varsan” – “Varsaz” and “Varsak” are provided (Ibn al-Fakikh, pages 284, 286, Yakut, “The word Varsan”).
In accordance with sources, the second meaning of the word “Varsak” is defined as the names of clans and tribes. V.V. Radlov explaining the word “varsak”, among its other meanings notes that it also meant “the name of the one of the Tatar (Turkic) tribes” (V.V. Radlov “Comprehensive dictionary of Turkic dialects”, Vol. IV, page 1961).28
So, Azerbaijan was not only populated by nomadic Turks (Huns, Albanians, Saks) but the whole country was recognized by them.
And finally, it worth mentioning that it was not only in the ancient times. Oruj Bey Bayat in his book along with the seven most powerful tribes of Safavid Empire names the Varsak one.29

4. Ethnic and state situation at the time of arrival of “Mongols” of Genghis Khan

The residence and statehood of the following warlike nomadic tribes and commonalities was proved on the territories of Iran and Azerbaijan:
• - Scythians / Saka
• - Albanians
• - Huns
And, after arrival of the caliphate, of the such Turkic dynasties as
• - Sajids30
• - Seljuk
• - Atabegs of Azerbaijan
• - Khwarazm-Shahs
During the first expedition to the West, the Mongols of Genghis Khan faced with the Turkmen, led by Khwarazm-Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad. Even before the first battle with Khwarazm-Shah, many Muslim Turks entered the lines of "Mongols" of Genghis Khan. After the death of Jalal ad-Din - the son and heir of Ala ad-Din Muhammad – many Oguzes have already been in the ranks of the army of Genghis Khan. The army-state of Genghis Khan was perfectly structured, according to the best patriarchal traditions of Turkic peoples.31

In a nomadic patriarchal structure a special place was given to the tribes and clans. Outsiders were not considered worthy neither for alliance, nor enmity. The strict order identified the place of the tribe in this hierarchy. Often, the precedence of tribes and clans was determined by the status of their representatives at the court and in the army of the emperor.
For example, if an ancestor of Qajars, Saba was an ordinary soldier, his grandson Sartak-Noyon rose to the position of atabeg (a mentor) of the ruler Arghun Khan or his son Ghazan Khan. It means: Saba was a soldier in the tribe, when his grandson had become the leader and led the army.32
As we know, Turkic tribes were divided into clans. As it had often happened, some members of a clan, by reaching a certain height, originated a new clan named after them.
For instance, the members of the Kyzylkechili tribe formed by the sons of Kaya, originated the new clan of Ottomans named after their ancestor Osman Bey.
Thus, due to the place taken in the hierarchy of the Ilkhanid state, Sartak-Noyon’s descendants of Oguz clan, could have as well originated a new clan, as a part of their own tribe. As it was indicated above, such cases were widely spread among Oguzs.
Below is the description of the Turks and Mongols ancestry which was consolidated by Rashid al-Din:
"Oguz had six sons, each of which had four sons; Oguz gave them right and left wing forces in this distribution:

Right wing:

Kaya, Bayat,
Kara-evli. Ay-khan
Yaraz, Duiker,
Durduga, Bayarli. Yulduz-khan
Avesh [Aush], Kyryg,
Bekdely, Karkyn.

Left wing:

Bikha Dzhauldur, Chipni Tak-Khan
Salor or Salyr,
Yimur, Alayutli, Uzgiz Dengiz-Khan
Yandir, Bukdur,
Binva, Kanik

Oguz was also joined by his brothers and cousins: Uigur, Kanly, Kipchak, Karluk, Kalach and Agach-eri.
The ethnic groups descended from Oguz’s uncles: Or-khan, Koz-khan and Gur-khan, as well as his brothers and their children who have not joined him.

Originally the name of the modern nation Mongol was different as the name appeared some time after them. Each branch of these ethic groups divided in to many bloodlines and each of them has received a different name. And Dzhalairs was one of them”.33
Oruj Bey Bayat, the Safavid ambassador to the court of the Spanish King in the years 1599—1602, who made a decision to stay in Spain and convert to Catholicism, wrote a book in 1604 “The history of Don Juan of Persia”. In this book he describes the noble tribes and clans of Safavid. He tells of two tribes Bayat and Qajar but in manuscript «Tazkerat al-Moluk» (Memorial for kings), Persian manual from the transitional period between the collapse of the Safavid empire at the end of the reign of Shah Solṭān Ḥosayn (r.1694-1722) translated by V. F. Minorsky, Qajars and Bayats are united as Bayat Shama or Bayat-Qajars.
It remains unclear which Qajar royals are recorded in Bayat. Just as they are also introduced in the Encyclopedia Iranica: “In addition, there was a third Bayāt group, known as the Bayāt-e Šāmor Bayāt-e Qājār, evidently, a branch of the Šām Bayātī of Syria and Anatolia. They must have come to Iran with the Qajar tribe in the wake of the Āq Qoyunlū. In the 10th/16th century the Qajars lived in Azerbaijan, manly around Ganja and Barda’a; it is not clear which of the Qajar amirs were of Bayāt descent. In the 12th/18th century a village near Ganja bore the name of the Bayāt-e Šām and a certain Moḥammad-ʿAlī Khan, who belonged to this tribe, was an amir in the service of Ādel Shah Afšār. Under the Qajars, particularly in Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah’s reign (1212-50/1797-1834), several amirs from the tribe rose to prominence”.34
It should be noted that Oruj Bey Bayat, while listing seven major tribes of Safavid Empire, did not refer to Jalairs (Jalayirs) although he mentions Varsaks and Agach-yeri, ancient tribes populated the empire. There is no evidence to imply that Jalairs abandoned the land for the last centuries. Perhaps, they have joined other more powerful tribes.
In summary, we can state with the confidence that no matter whether Qajars were members of Jalairs or Bayats, they were Turks and so-called Mongolian origin is nothing more than a political move to deny their legitimate rule.


1. Qajar, Genghis „Qajars“, Baku, 2001.
2. Bakıxanov, Abbas Qulu Ağa “Gülüstani-İrəm”; Bakı, “Minarə”, 2000, səh. 72. (in Azeri Turkish)
3. Vladimirtsov B. J. “Works on the history and ethnography of the Mongolian people”; Moscow, Publishing Company “Eastern Literature”, 2002, page 55 (in Russian)
4. Gumilev, L. N. “Ancient Turks”; Publishing House “Nauka”, Moscow, 1967, page 10-44 (in Russian)
5. Kiselyov S. V. “Ancient History of the Southern Siberia”; Moscow, Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences USSR, 1951 (in Russian)
6. Trepavlov V. V. “Power and control in the Turkic nomadic society (as of epic tales of the peoples of the South Siberia) // “Turkological Collection: 2005. Turkic peoples of Russia and the Great Steppe”; Moscow, Publishing Company "Vostochnaya Literatura", 2006, pages 323-354 (in Russian)
7. Bawden, Charles “Mongolian-English dictionary”; London; New York: New York: K. Paul, page 595
8. Illich-Svitych, V. M. “Experience in comparison of the Nostratic languages”. Comparative Dictionary; Publishing House "Nauka", Moscow. 1971-84 (in Russian)
9. Buniyatov, Z. M. “Azerbaijan in the 7th -9th centuries”. Baku, Publishing House “Elm”, 1965, page 154 (in Russian)
10. ibid, page 155
11. ibid
12. ibid
13. ibid
14. ibid, page 157
15. ibid
16. ibid , pages 157-158
17. ibid , page 158
18. Strabo “The Geography of Strabo”, edited by H. L. Jones; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1924.
19. Jordanes “The Origin and Deeds of the Goths”, translated by C. Mierow, Princeton University Press, 1908
20. Herodotus “Histories, Book IV (Melpomene)”, translated by George Rawlinson, London, 1911
21. Latham, Robert Gordon “The native races of the Russian empire” 1854, Russian and Turk. 1878
22. Abaev, V. I. “Scythian-Sarmatian dialects” // Basics of the Iranian linguistics. Ancient Iranian languages. Moscow, 1979 (in Russian)
23. Miller, V. F. “Ossetian studies: Monograph” / V. F. Miller. - [Reprint. publishing]. – Vladikavkaz [б.и.], 1992. (in Russian)
24. Alpatov, V. M. “History of a Myth. Marr and marrism”, 1991, page 27 (in Russian)
25. Hasanov, Zaur "Royal Scythians"; New York, Liberty Publishing House, 2002
26. Deacons, I. M. “History of Media from ancient times to the end of the IV. BC” Moscow-Leningrad, USSR Academy of Sciences, 1956 (in Russian)
27. Buniyatov, Z. M. “Azerbaijan”.... page 156
28. ibid, pages 156-157
29. “Don Juan of Persia”, A Shi'ah Catholic, 1560-1604, translated by G. Le Strange (New York & London, 1926)
30. Sharifli, M. X. “State of Sadjids”, "Proceedings of the Institute of History of the Azerbaijan SSR Academy of Science", Baku, 1961, Volume XV, page 23 (in Russian)
31. Razin, E. “Armed organization of the Mongols and Turks - the art of war” // History of Military Art VI - XVI centuries”- St. Petersburg, 1999 (in Russian)
32. Rashid al-Din “Collection of Histories”. Volume 1. Book 1. Moscow-Leningrad, Academy of Sciences of the USSR. 1952, pages 87-89 (in Russian)
33. ibid
34. Encyclopedia Iranica. Bayat. Online version: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/bayat-an-important-turkish-tribe