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<em>Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity</em>

Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity

Book, The MIT Press

July 2002

Author: Brenda Shaffer, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 1999–2007; Former Research Director, Caspian Studies Program, 2000–2005; Former Research Director, Caspian Studies Project, 2005–2007

Ordering Information for this publication

Belfer Center Studies in International Security

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Belfer Center Studies in International Security; Caspian Studies; International Security



"One of the few works that looks seriously at Iranian Azerbaijan, Shaffer's book is a major contribution to the history of both Iranian and Soviet nationality policies."
--Ronald Grigor Suny, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

"A very comprehensive and interesting intellectual endeavor that will interest specialists on identity, the Middle East, and post-Soviet studies, as well as the citizens of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan."
--Hamlet Isaxanli, President and Founder of Khazar University, Baku, Azerbaijan


The Azerbaijani people have been divided between Iran and the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan for more than 150 years, yet they have retained their ethnic identity. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of an independent Azerbaijan have only served to reinforce their collective identity.

In Borders and Brethren, Brenda Shaffer examines trends in Azerbaijani collective identity from the period of the Islamic Revolution in Iran through the Soviet breakup and the beginnings of the Republic of Azerbaijan (1979-2000). Challenging the mainstream view in contemporary Iranian studies, Shaffer argues that a distinctive Azerbaijani identity exists in Iran and that Azerbaijani ethnicity must be a part of studies of Iranian society and assessments of regime stability in Iran. She analyzes how Azerbaijanis have maintained their identity and how that identity has assumed different forms in the former Soviet Union and Iran. In addition to contributing to the study of ethnic identity, the book reveals the dilemmas of ethnic politics in Iran.


Brenda Shaffer is Research Director of the Caspian Studies Program at Harvard University. She is the author of Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity (MIT Press, 2002).


For more information about this publication please contact the ISP Program Coordinator at 617-496-1981.

For Academic Citation:

Brenda Shaffer. Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, July 2002.

Document Length: 264 pp.

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