Recently a few people have been asking me about Armenians, Turks, and genetics. Mostly because I’ve written about this topic before. Unless you’ve been asleep you know that there is a war going on in the Caucasus. Armenia and Azerbaijan are renewing their decades-long conflict and bringing other nations into as the local powers choose sides. Unpleasant all around.
Who are the Armenians? The Turks? Azeris?
Azeris in particular are not well known in the West, but they’re kind of a big deal. The Iranian province of Azerbaijan has nearly as many people as the Republic of Azerbaijan, and there are more Azeris in Iran than in independent Azerbaijan itself. The leader of Iran has an ethnic Azeri father. Azeris are Turkic and have traditionally been dominant in Iran’s military. Before the Turkification of the region over the last 500 years, Azerbaijan was called Albania. The native language was Iranian and related to Persian.
While a few Armenians in my datasets have Russian admixture (they are likely F1 individuals who identify as Armenian), what is notable about Azeris is like Turks they exhibit a small but notable shift toward East Asians. This is almost certainly the consequence of Turkic ancestry. Though most of the ancestry of Azeri is pre-Turkic, Turkification occurred through the assimilation of nomads with some East Asian ancestry.
The same applies to Turks to the west of Armenia. In previous posts, I’ve had discussions about the nature of Turkish ancestry, but in general, I am convinced by those who argue that the non-Turkic component (which would include East Asian and Turanian) reflects the earlier pattern of variation; Greek in the west, Armenian and Kurdish in the east.
Conflicts, like we are seeing today, illustrates the power of ideas over relatedness. Armenians are Christians, albeit peculiar Oriental Orthodox Christians. Additionally, they continue to speak an ancient Indo-European language. This sets them against Turkic speaking Muslims to the west, and Turkic speaking Muslims to the east, though all the groups share a deep common ancestry.