By far the largest Turkic-speaking group are the Azarbaijanis,
who account for over 85 percent of all Turkic speakers in Iran.
Most of the Azarbaijanis are concentrated in the northwestern
corner of the country, where they form the majority population
in an area between the Caspian Sea and Lake Urmia and from the
Soviet border south to the latitude of Tehran. Their language,
Azarbaijani (also called Azeri or Turkish), is structurally similar
to the Turkish spoken in Turkey but with a strikingly different
accent. About half of all Azarbaijanis are urban. Major Azarbaijani
cities include Tabriz, Urmia, Ardabil, Zanjan, Khoy, and Maragheh.
In addition, an estimated one-third of the population of Tehran
is Azarbaijani and there are sizable Azarbaijani minorities in
other major cities, such as Hamadan, Karaj, and Qazvin. The life
styles of urban Azarbaijanis do not differ from those of Persians,
and there is considerable intermarriage among the upper classes
in cities of mixed populations. Similarly, customs among Azarbaijani
villagers do not appear to differ markedly from those of Persian
villagers. The majority of Azarbaijanis, like the majority of
Persians, are Shia Muslims. A tiny minority of Azarbaijanis are
Bahais (see Non-Muslim Minorities , this ch.).
Data as of December 1987