Tat people
1880 photograph depicting a group of Tat men from the village of Adur in the Kuba Uyezd of the Baku Governorate of the Russian Empire
Total population
tens of thousands (various estimates)[citation needed]
Regions with significant populations
 Azerbaijan25,218 (2009)[1]
 Russia1,585 (2010)[citation needed]
Tat, Azerbaijani, and Russian
Related ethnic groups
Other Iranian peoples, Armeno-Tats

The Tat people (also: Tat, Parsi, Daghli, Lohijon) are an Iranian people presently living within Azerbaijan and Russia (mainly Southern Dagestan). The Tats are part of the indigenous peoples of Iranian origin in the Caucasus.[2][3][4]

Tats use the Tat language, a southwestern Iranian language somewhat different from Standard Persian,[5][6] as well as Azerbaijani and Russian. Tats are mainly Shia Muslims with a significant Sunni Muslim minority.

The 1886–1892 Tsarist population figures counted 124,683 Tats in the Russian Caucasus of which 118,165 were located in the Baku Governorate and 3,609 in the Dagestan Oblast.[7] The 1897 Russian Empire census recorded 95,056 Tats, of which 89,519 were in the Baku Governorate and 2,998 in the Dagestan Oblast.[7] The 1926 Soviet census only counted 28,705 Tats of which 28,443 were in the Azerbaijan SSR and 1,237 in the Dagestan ASSR.[7] Arthur Tsutsiev notes that a major portion of Tats in the 1926 census were listed under the categories "Persians" and "Azerbaijani Turks".[8] This was particularly the case within the Azerbaijan SSR, where some 38,327 individuals were recorded as "Turks whose native language is Tat".[9] The 1979 Soviet census counted 22,441 Tats of which 8,848 were located in the Azerbaijan SSR and 7,437 in the Dagestan ASSR.[7]


An old Tat woman in Lahic

As late as the turn of the 20th century, the Tat constituted about 11% of the population of the entire eastern half of Azerbaijan (see Baku Governorate, the section on Demography). They formed nearly one-fifth (18.9%) of the population of the Baku province and over one-quarter (25.3%) of the Kuba Province—both on the Caspian Sea. Either through misrepresentation, data manipulation, or simple assimilation, the Tat portion of the population of Azerbaijan has shrunk to insignificance, facing assimilation.


Distribution of the Tats in Azerbaijan (then Baku Governorate, part of the Russian Empire) in 1886–1890.

The earliest mention of Persians in the Caucasus is found in the Greek historian Herodotus' account of the Achaemenid expansion of 558–330 BC, during which they annexed Transcaucasia (South Caucasus) as the X, XI, XVIII and XIX satrapies of their empire.[10]

Archaeological material uncovered in present-day Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia include Achaemenid architecture, jewelry and ceramics.[11]

There is little information about the permanent Persian population in South Caucasus since the Achaemenid period. Likely the ancestors of modern Tats settled in South Caucasus when the Sassanid Empire from the 3rd to 7th centuries built cities and founded military garrisons to strengthen their positions in this region.[12]

Khosrow I (531–579) presented the title of regent of Shirvan in eastern South Caucasus to a close relative of his, who later became a progenitor of the first Shirvanshah dynasty (about 510 – 1538).[13]

After the region had been conquered by Arabs (7th and 8th centuries) Islamization of the local population began.

Since the 11th century Oghuz tribes, led by Seljuq dynasts started to penetrate into the region. The gradual formation of the Azeri people started. Apparently, in this period the Turkic exonym Tat or Tati, which designated settled farmers, was assigned to the South Caucasian dialect of the Persian language.[14]

The Mongols conquered South Caucasus in the 1230s and the Ilkhanate state was founded in the 1250s. Mongol domination lasted until 1360–1370, but that did not stop prominent poets and scientists to emerge.

At the end of the 14th century, South Caucasus was invaded by Tamerlane. By the end of the 15th century, the state of Shirvanshahs had obtained considerable power, its diplomatic and economic ties had become stronger. In the middle of the 16th century the state of Shirvanshahs was eliminated and South Caucasus joined Safavid Iran almost completely.

In the late 18th century Russia actively started to contest the hegemony of Iran in the Caucasus. Following the Russo-Persian Wars of 1804-1813 and 1826-1828 and the respectively resulting treaties of Gulistan and Turkmenchay, Russia gained most of the South Caucasus and parts of the North Caucasus from Qajar Iran.[15] After that there is data about quantity and settling of the Tats, collected by tsarist authorities. When the city of Baku was occupied in the beginning of the 19th century during the Russo-Persian War (1804–1813), the whole population of the city (about 8,000 people) were Tats.[16]

Russia more or less openly pursued a policy to free their newly conquered land from Iran's influence. By doing this, the Russian government helped to create and spread a new Turkic identity that, in contrast to the previous one, was founded on secular principles, particularly the shared language. As a result, many Iranian-speaking residents of the future Azerbaijan Republic at the time either started hiding their Iranian ancestry or underwent progressive assimilation. The Tats and Kurds underwent these integration processes particularly quickly.[17]

According to the 19th-century Golestan-e-Eram, written by Abbasqulu Bakikhanov, Tati was widespread in many areas of Shamakhi, Baku, Darband and Guba:[18]

“There are eight villages in Tabarsaran which are: Jalqan, Rukan, Maqatir, Kamakh, Ridiyan, Homeydi, Mata'i, and Bilhadi. They are in the environs of a city that Anushiravan built near the wall of Darband. Its remains are still there. They speak the Tat language, which is one of the languages of Old Persia. It is clear that they are from the people of Fars and after its destruction, they settled in those villages. ..The districts situated between the two cities of Shamakhi and Qodyal, which is now the city of Qobbeh, include Howz, Lahej, and Qoshunlu in Shirvan and Barmak, Sheshpareh and the lower part of Boduq in Qobbeh, and all the country of Baku, except six villages of Turkmen, speak Tat. it becomes apparent from this that they originate from Fars.“

— Abbas Qoli Aqa Bakikhanov, "The Heavenly Rose-Garden: A History of Shirvan & Daghestan"[19]

According to the 1894 publication of the Caucasian Calendar, there were 124,693 Tats in the Caucasus,[20] however, due to the gradual spread of the Azerbaijani language, Tati was falling out of use. During the Soviet period, after the official term Azerbaijani had been introduced in the late 1930s, the ethnic self-consciousness of Tats changed greatly and many started to call themselves Azerbaijani. Whereas in 1926 about 28,443 Tats had been counted,[21] in 1989 only 10,239 people recognized themselves as such.[22]

In 2005 American researchers carried out investigations in several villages of Guba, Devechi, Khizi, Siyazan, Ismailli and Shemakha districts of the Republic of Azerbaijan, indicating 15,553 Tats in these villages.[23]

Local self-designations

Although the majority of the Tat population of Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan uses the Turkic exonym Tati or Tat as a self-designation, there remain some local self-designations:[24]

On December 14, 1990, the Azeri cultural and educational society for studying and development of Tati language, history, and ethnography was founded by the board of the Ministry of Justice of the Azerbaijan SSR. A primer and textbook of the Tat language together with literary and folklore pieces were published.


The Persian settlers of the South Caucasus have long interacted with the surrounding ethnic groups, exchanging elements of their cultures. Arts like carpet-making, hand-weaving, metal manufacture, embossing and incrustation are highly developed. The arts of ornamental design and miniature are also very popular.[27]

There is a rich tradition of Tat spoken folk art. Genres of national poetry like ruba’is, ghazals, beits are highly developed. While studying the works of Persian medieval poets of South Caucasus like Khaqani and Nizami some distinctive features of the Tat language have been revealed.[28]

As a result of the long co-existence of Tats and Azerbaijanis, many common features in farming, housekeeping, and culture have developed. Traditional Tat female clothes are a long shirt, wide trousers worn outside, a slim line dress, outer unbuttoned dress, headscarf, and "Moroccan" stockings. Male clothes are the Circassian coat and high fur-cap.


Traditional occupations of the Tat population are agriculture, vegetable-growing, gardening and cattle-breeding. The main cultures are barley, rye, wheat, millet, sunflower, maize, potatoes and peas. Large vineyards and fruit gardens are widespread. Sheep, cows, horses, donkeys, buffalos and rarely camels are kept as domestic cattle.

The traditional one or two-storeyed houses made of rectangular limestone blocks or river shingles and also have blank walls facing the street. The roof is flat with an opening for a stone fireplace chimney. The upper floor is used for habitation and living areas where the family gets together (kitchen etc.) were situated on the ground floor. Typically one of the living room walls has several niches for the storage of clothes, bed linens, and sometimes crockery. Rooms were illuminated by lamps or by a skylight through an opening in the roof. House furniture consisted of low couches, carpeted floors, and mattresses. Fireplaces, braziers, and ovens were used for heating the home in winter and cooking year-round.

The property usually has a walled or fenced in yard and almost always has a garden. There is a veranda (eyvan), a paved drain or a small basin (tənu), covered cattle-pan, stable and hen-house.


Originally the Persians were Zoroastrian. After they had been conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate, Islam became widespread. Today the Tats are mainly Shia Muslim, with a sizeable minority who are Sunni Muslim.[29]

Other Tat-speaking ethnic groups

The Tat language was widely spread in Eastern South Caucasus. Up to the 20th century it was also used by non-Muslim groups: Mountain Jews, part of the Armenians and the Udins.[30] This has led some to the idea that Muslim Tats, Tat-speaking Mountain Jews, and Tat-speaking Christian Armenians are one nation, practicing three different religions.

Tats and Mountain Jews

Main article: Mountain Jews

The "Mountain Jews" belong to the community of Persian-speaking Jews. Some groups of this community live in Iran, Israel (especially), North America (especially), Europe, and Central Asia (Bukharan Jews). The Jews of Central Asia were classified "Mountain Jews" only in 19th-century official Russian documentation. The Mountain Jews call themselves Juhuro, which means "Jews".

In the year 1888 A. Sh. Anisimov showed the closeness of the language of the Mountain Jews and the Tats. In his work Caucasian Jews-Mountaineers he came to the conclusion that the Mountain Jews were representatives of the Iranian family of the Tats, which had adopted Judaism in Iran and later moved to the South Caucasus. The ideas of Anisimov were supported during the Soviet period: the popularization of the idea of the Mountain Jews' Tat origin started in the 1930s. Through the efforts of several Mountain Jews, closely connected with the regime, the idea of mountain Jews being not really Jews at all but Judaized Tats became widely spread. Some Mountain Jews started to register themselves as Tats because of secret pressure from the authorities.

As a result of this, the words Tat and Mountain Jew became almost synonymous. The term "Tat" was used in research literature as the second or even first name for Mountain Jews. This caused the whole cultural heritage (literature, theatre, music) created by Mountain Jews during the Soviet period to be attributed to the Tats.

Comparing physic-anthropological characteristics of Tats and Mountain Jews together with information about their languages suggests no signs of ethnic unity between these two nations.

Like most "Jewish" languages, the grammatical structure of Juhuri retains archaic features of the language it is derived from. At the same time all of these languages are satiated with Hebrew words. The loanwords from Aramaic and Hebrew in Juhuri include words not directly connected with Judaic rituals (e.g. zoft resin, nokumi envy, ghuf body, keton linen, etc.) Some syntactical features that Juhuri has are ones typical for Hebrew.

The physical-anthropological types of Tats and Mountain Jews are also dissimilar.

In 1913 the anthropologist K.M. Kurdov carried out measurements of a large group of Tat population of Lahij village and revealed fundamental differences[31] of their physical-anthropological type from the Mountain Jews. Measurements of Tats and Mountain Jews were also made by some other researchers.[32] Cephalic index measurements have showed that while for Tats mesocephalia and dolichocephalia are typical, extreme brachycephalia is typical for Mountain Jews. Dermatoglyphic characteristics of the Tats and Mountain Jews also exclude ethnic similarity. In 2012 a uniparental genetic markers comparison between Judeo-Tat dialect and Muslim-Tat dialect speakers in Dagestan found independent demographic histories.[33]

Speakers of Mountain-Jew dialect and Tati language are representatives of two different nations, each with its own religion, ethnic consciousness, self-designation, way of life, material and spiritual values.[34]

Tats and Armenians

Main article: Armeno-Tats

Some 19th- and 20th-century publications describe the citizens of several Tat-speaking village of South Caucasus as Armenian Tats, Armeno-Tats, Christian Tats or Gregorian Tats. It was suggested that a part of the Persians of Eastern South Caucasus had adopted Armenian Christianity, but this did not take into consideration the fact that those citizens identify themselves as Armenians, because conversion to religion is strongly attached to ethnic identity in eastern cultures.[35]

There are traces of an Armenian phonological, lexical, grammatical, and calque substratum in the dialect of Tat-speaking Armenians. There are also Armenian affricates (ծ, ց, ձ) in words of Iranian origin, which do not exist in the Tat language. This can only be explained by Armenian influence.

Although they have lost their language these Armenians managed to preserve their national identity. It has a distinct "us versus them" dichotomy, "Hay" (us) to "Muslims" (Tats and Azeri together).

Tat people of northern Iran

Main article: Tat people (Iran)

Starting from the Middle Ages, the term Tati was used not only for the Caucasus but also for northern Iran, where it was extended to almost all of the local Iranian languages except Persian and Kurdish.

Currently the term Tati and Tati language is used to refer to a particular group of north-western Iranian dialects (Chali, Danesfani, Hiaraji, Hoznini, Esfarvarini, Takestani, Sagzabadi, Ebrahimabadi, Eshtehardi, Hoini, Kajali, Shahroudi, Harzani) in Iranian Azerbaijan, as well as south of it in the provinces of Qazvin and Zanjan.[36] These dialects have a certain affinity to the Talysh language as one of the descendants of the Old Azari language.[37]

See also


  1. ^ "Demography of Azerbaijan".
  2. ^ H. Pilkington,"Islam in Post-Soviet Russia", Psychology Press, Nov 27, 2002 . pg 27: "Among other indigenous peoples of Iranian origin were the Tats, the Talishes and the Kurds"[1]
  3. ^ R. Khanam,"Encyclopaedic Ethnography of Middle-East and Central Asia:P-Z, Volume 1", Global Vision Publishing Ho, 2005. pg 746:"The contemporary Tats are the descendants of an Iranian-speaking population sent out of Persia by the dynasty of the Sasanids in the fifth to sixth centuries."
  4. ^ T. M. Masti︠u︡gina, Lev Perepelkin, Vitaliĭ Vi͡a︡cheslavovich Naumkin, "An Ethnic History of Russia: Pre-Revolutionary Times to the Present", Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996. pg 80:"The Iranian Peoples (Ossetians, Tajiks, Tats, Mountain Judaists)" [2]
  5. ^ Gruenberg, Alexander. (1966). "Tatskij jazyk". In: Vinogradov, V. V. (ed.), Jazyki narodov SSSR. Volume 1: Indoevropejskie jazyki, 281-301. Excerpt: "The Tat language belongs to the Southwest group of Iranian languages and is close in its grammatical structure and lexical content to the Persian and Tajik languages."
  6. ^ Authier, Gilles (2012). Grammaire juhuri, ou judéo-tat, langue iranienne des Juifs du Caucase de l'est. Wiesbaden: Reichert. Excerpt: "Judaeo-Tat has no particular affinity with the Persian varieties, spoken until recently by Jews of Bukhara, Yazd, Isfahan, Kerman, Hamadan, Kashan, and Nahavand. Contrary to these, Judaeo-Tat is a different language that is not intelligible with Standard Persian;",
  7. ^ a b c d Tsutsiev, Arthur. "Appendix 3: Ethnic Composition of the Caucasus: Historical Population Statistics". Atlas of the Ethno-Political History of the Caucasus, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014, p. 180.
  8. ^ Tsutsiev, Arthur. "Appendix 3: Ethnic Composition of the Caucasus: Historical Population Statistics". Atlas of the Ethno-Political History of the Caucasus, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014, p. 189 (note 34).
  9. ^ Tsutsiev, Arthur. "Appendix 3: Ethnic Composition of the Caucasus: Historical Population Statistics". Atlas of the Ethno-Political History of the Caucasus, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014, p. 189 (note 34).
  10. ^ Herodotus. History
  11. ^ Kroll, Stephan. "Medes and Persians in Transcaucasia: archaeological horizons in north-western Iran and Transcaucasia", in : Giovanni B. Lanfranchi, Michael Roaf, Robert Rollinger, eds., Continuity of Empire (?) Assyria, Media, Persia. Padova, S.a.r.g.o.n. Editrice e Libreria, 2003, pp. 281–287.
  12. ^ V. Minorsky. A History of Sharvan and Darband in the 10th–11th Centuries
  13. ^ al-Baladhuri. Book of the Conquests of Lands (Kitab Futuh al-Buldan)
  14. ^ B. Miller. Taty, ikh rasseleniye i govory (in Russian)
  15. ^ Timothy C. Dowling Russia at War: From the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond, pp. 728-729 ABC-CLIO, 2 dec. 2014 ISBN 1598849484
  16. ^ Yunusov A. S. Azərbaycanda Islam (in Azeri Turkic); This is an official result of the first census of the population of Baku, gained by tsarist authorities
  17. ^ Ter-Abrahamian 2005, p. 121.
  18. ^ Gulistan-i Iram / ʻAbbāsqulī Āqā Bakikhānūf ; matn-i ʻilm – intiqādī bi-saʻy va ihtimam: ʻAbd al-Karīm ʻAlī-zādah [va dīgarān], Bākku : Idārah-ʾi intishārāt-i "ʻIlm", 1970. Original Persian: درصفحه‌ 18 كتاب‌ مذكور آمده‌ است‌: هشت‌ قريه‌ در طبرسران‌ كه‌ جلقان‌ و روكال‌ و مقاطير و كماخ‌ و زيديان‌ و حميدي‌ و مطاعي‌ و بيلحدي‌ باشد، در حوالي‌ شهري‌ كه‌ انوشيروان‌ در محل‌ متصل‌ به‌ دربند تعمير كرده‌ بود و آثار آن‌ هنوز معلوم‌ است‌، زبان‌ تات‌ دارند. ايضا" در صفحه‌ 19 كتاب‌ ياد شده‌ آمده‌ است‌: محالات‌ واقع‌ در ميان‌ بلوكين‌شماخي‌ و قديال‌ كه‌ حالا شهر قبه‌ است‌، مثل‌ حوض‌ و لاهج‌ و قشونلو در شيروان‌ و برمك‌ و شش‌ پاره‌ و پايين‌ بدوق‌ در قبه‌ و تمام‌ مملكت‌ باكو سواي‌ شش‌ قريه‌ ي‌ تراكمه‌، همين‌زبان‌ تات‌ را دارند... قسم‌ قربي‌ مملكت‌ قبه‌ سواي‌ قريه‌ ي‌ خنالق‌ كه‌ رباني‌ عليحده‌ دارد و ناحيه‌ ي‌ سموريه‌ و كوره‌ دو محال‌ طبرسران‌ كه‌ دره‌ و احمدلو مي‌باشند به‌ اصطلاحات‌منطقه‌، زبان‌ مخصوص‌ دارند و اهالي‌ ترك‌ زبان‌ را مغول‌ مي‌نامند .
  19. ^ Willem Floor, Hasan Javadi(2009), "The Heavenly Rose-Garden: A History of Shirvan & Daghestan by Abbas Qoli Aqa Bakikhanov, Mage Publishers, 2009. page 18
  20. ^ Кавказский календарь на 1894 год [Caucasian calendar for 1894] (in Russian) (49th ed.). Tiflis: Tipografiya kantselyarii Ye.I.V. na Kavkaze, kazenny dom. 1894.
  21. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1926 года. Национальный состав населения по регионам республик СССРДемоскоп Weekly.
  22. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 года. Национальный состав населения по регионам республик СССР Демоскоп Weekly.
  23. ^ John M. Clifton, Gabriela Deckinga, Laura Lucht, Calvin Tiessen. Sociolinguistic Situation of the Tat and Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan, 2005 г. Archived 2011-07-28 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Миллер Б. В. Таты, их расселение и говоры. Баку, 1929. Archived 2016-10-03 at the Wayback MachineB. Miller. Taty, ikh rasseleniye i govory (in Russian)
  25. ^ Avtandilashvili, Giorgi (2012). Topchishvili, Roland (ed.). "ლაიჯები" [Lahiji]. Kavkasiis Et'nologia (in Georgian): 225–235.
  26. ^ Hundadze, Gocha (19 January 2020). "They live in Georgia for more than a hundred years - yet no one knows about them". JamNews. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  27. ^ Great Soviet Encyclopedia, vol. 25 (in Russian)
  28. ^ Jamāl-al-Din Khalil Šarvāni, Nozhat al-majāles, ed. Mohammad Amin Riāhi, Tehran, 2nd ed. Tehran, 1996. (in Persian)[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ Bennigsen, Alexandre; Wimbush, S. Enders (1986). Muslims of the Soviet Empire: A Guide. Indiana University Press. pp. 220–221. ISBN 978-0-253-33958-4.
  30. ^ İsmayılov R. Azərbaycan tarixi (in Azeri Turkic)
  31. ^ (cephalic index average value is 79,21)
  32. ^ Cephalic index average value for the Tats of The Republic of Azerbaijan differs from 77,13 to 79,21, for Mountain Jews of Daghestan and The Republic of Azerbaijan – form 86,1 до 87,433.
  33. ^ Bertoncini S, Bulayeva K, Ferri G, Pagani L, Caciagli L, Taglioli L, et al. (2012). "The dual origin of Tati-speakers from Dagestan as written in the genealogy of uniparental variants". Am J Hum Biol. 24 (4): 391–9. doi:10.1002/ajhb.22220. PMID 22275152. S2CID 38323143.
  34. ^ И. Семёнов. О происхождении горских евреев. Archived 2006-10-11 at the Wayback Machine I. Semenov. O proiskhozhdenii gorskikh evreyev (in Russian).
  35. ^ А. Акопян. Устные истории татоязычных армян о событиях начала 20-го века Archived 2009-03-04 at the Wayback Machine A. Akopian. Ustnie istorii tatoyazichnikh armyan o sobitiyakh nachala 20 veka. (in Russian).
  36. ^ Языки мира. Иранские языки. Северо-западные иранские языки. с. 106–107. М., Индрик, 1999 г.
  37. ^ تات Archived 2012-03-06 at the Wayback Machine