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Ethnicity, Identity, and the Development of Nationalism in Iran

by David N. Yaghoubian

Publication Year: 2014

Ethnicity, Identity, and the Development of Nationalism in Iran investigates the ways in which Armenian minorities in Iran encountered Iranian nationalism and participated in its development over the course of the twentieth century. Based primarily on oral interviews, archival documents, personal memoirs, memorabilia, and photographs, the book examines the lives of a group of Armenian-Iranians—a truck driver, an army officer, a parliamentary representative, a civil servant, and a scout leader—and explores the personal conflicts and paradoxes attendant upon their layered allegiances and compound identities. In documenting individual experiences in Iranian industry, military, government, education, and community organization, the five social biographies detail the various roles of elites and non-elites in the development of Iranian nationalism and reveal the multiple forces that shape the processes of identity formation. Yaghoubian combines these portraits with theories of nationalism and national identity to answer recurring pivotal questions about how nationalism evolves, why it is appealing, what broad forces and daily activities shape and sustain it, and the role of ethnicity in its development.

Published by: Syracuse University Press


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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication, About the Author

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xx

Throughout the summer of 2008, in the waning months of the George W. Bush presidency, it was open to question whether the United States would launch military strikes against Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities. At the same time, the extent of covert activities within the Islamic Republic to create dissent and possibly topple the governing regime remained obscure. Speculation regarding a potential escalation of covert...

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pp. xxi-xxii

During a family dinner one night in the fall of 1979, which by default took place immediately after the evening news coverage of developments in Iran, I posed what I thought was a simple question to my parents. “Are we Iranian, Armenian, or American?” My father’s affirmative response to that question marks the original inception of this study. I would therefore...

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pp. xxiii-xxxvi

In may 1927, the lands between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf were officially named “Iran.” Concomitantly, the heterogeneous population inhabiting the region—people of diverse ethnicities, languages, religions, and cultures—officially became “Iranians.” Although the term ...

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1. Nationalism, Theory, and Social Biography

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pp. 1-44

The photo on the following page depicts an event that took place on October 26, 1953, at Amjadieh Stadium in Tehran, Iran. A parade to honor the thirty-fourth birthday of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is led by a group of Iranian scouts, bearing flags of the Iranian nation and their scouting organization as well as a large photograph of the shah (king) as ...

I. Experiences withIranian Nationalism

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pp. 45-46

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2. Iskandar Khan Setkhanian

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pp. 47-88

A throng of mourners crowded Tehran’s Armenian church in April 1953 to pay their respects to the family of retired General Iskandar Khan Setkhanian, who had served in the military under four of Iran’s Qajar shahs. Among the mourners were numerous government officials and military officers representing the Pahlavi regime. Following the religious ceremony at Surb Astvatsatsin Church, priests, military...

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3. Hagob Hagobian

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pp. 89-122

The frightened Armenian boy stood in the doorway of his family’s home as his mother rushed past him in a vain attempt to protect her husband as he was being attacked by a band of Kurdish men.1 Following the violent struggle, the Kurds quickly rode away, leaving his parents’ bodies in front of the farmhouse. Although Hagob Hagobian was the oldest of three brothers, at the age of seven he was far too young to understand the...

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4. Sevak Saginian

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pp. 123-168

At age fifteen in 1937, Sevak Saginian made the unfortunate observation that the Armenian and Assyrian kids in his Tehran neighborhood seemed to be on the receiving end of increasing verbal and physical punishment from their Persian Muslim counterparts, some of whom they had played with as small children. Although decades later Sevak would attribute this change to the effects of the extreme Iranian nationalist rhetoric...

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5. Lucik Moradiance

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pp. 169-208

The locomotive strained to gather momentum and began to pull out of Tehran’s central train station as the group of recent college graduates bid good-bye to family and friends, waving to them from the station platform. Three young women and their fifteen male colleagues, all selected for on-site internships at the Abadan refi nery in the summer of 1954, settled in for their twenty-four-hour journey. For Lucik Moradiance,...

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6. Nejde Hagobian

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pp. 209-260

As he slowly shook his head, Dr. Hossein Banai looked both amused and slightly perturbed.1 The previous evening he had warned the Persian scoutmasters to be on alert during the night to defend against the classic ritual attack that occurred at boy scout jamborees, but they had obviously disregarded his warning. As a result, their outer clothing had been purloined in the early morning hours of August 26, 1954, and hoisted...

II. Experience and Theory

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pp. 261-262

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7. Learning from Theoryand Social Biography

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pp. 263-280

Having explored contemporary questions and problems posed by theoretical accounts of the development of nationalism in chapter 1 and investigated the activities and experiences of a group of Armenian Iranian individuals through social biography in part I, this final chapter demonstrates how social biography and theory can be utilized to respond to persistent recurring questions and refine our understanding of nationalism....

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pp. 281-300

Sevak Saginian, Hagob Hagobian, Lucik Moradiance, Nejde Hagobian, and the descendants of Iskandar Khan Setkhanian all eventually emigrated with their families from Iran to the United States. After leaving friends and relatives behind in Iran, in addition to all of their possessions and savings, Sevak Saginian and his family were granted political asylum in the United States in 1979 and began life anew in the large Armenian ...


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pp. 301-378


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pp. 379-394


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pp. 395-420

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815652724
E-ISBN-10: 0815652720
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815633594
Print-ISBN-10: 0815633599

Page Count: 440
Illustrations: 80 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 883248245
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Ethnicity, Identity, and the Development of Nationalism in Iran

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Armenians -- Iran -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Armenians -- Iran -- Ethnic identity.
  • Armenians -- Iran -- Biography.
  • Armenians -- Iran -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Nationalism -- Iran -- History -- 20th century.
  • Iran -- Politics and government -- 1941-1979.
  • Iran -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Iran -- History -- 20th century -- Biography.
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