ETHNONYMNS: Hazaragi, Hezareh, Hezare'i
Most Hazara live in central Afghanistan in an area known as the Hazarajat. Others live in areas north of the Hindu Kush. The Hazarajat and other Hazara territories are mountainous. The climate is severe in winter, with heavy snowfall; summers are mild but short, particularly at higher elevations. The Hazarajat, considering its harsh terrain, is densely populated.
The Hazara are roughly estimated to number between 1 and 1.5 million in Afghanistan and between 17,000 and 70,000 in Pakistan, but some estimates suggest a total of 6 million Hazara. Other ethnic minorities are sometimes considered to be Hazara or Hazara-related. The Taimani, who live at the eastern and western edges of the Hazarajat, are related to the Hazara, but the Taimani on the western edge are associated with the Aimaq. The Tatars, sometimes known as Tajiks, were once called Hazara Tatars and are considered physically and culturally similar to the Hazaras. The Moghols (Mongols) of Ghor, although probably related, are considered ethnically distinct from the Hazara.
Hazara are thought to have several affinities with the Mongols, including physical appearance, language, and kinship system. Although the Hazara lack the characteristic epicanthic eyefolds, many believe they are clearly Mongoloid. Hazaragi, the traditional language of the Hazara, is an Indo-Iranian language with many Mongol loanwords. Hazaragi is spoken in the home and, in the more isolated areas, it is also the language spoken in public affairs. Another indication of Mongol influence is the Hazara designation of older and younger siblings by different terms.
The term hazara is a Mongol-Persian blend. It means "thousand" in Farsi, and is believed to be the Persian equivalent of the Mongol word for thousand, minggan. The Mongols called a fighting unit by this term because the unit consisted of a kinship group that provided a thousand horsemen. Therefore, the word actually means "tribe." After the Hindu Kush Mongols acquired Farsi, the Farsi equivalent replaced the Mongol word. By the fifteenth century, "hazara" meant "mountain tribe," and, later, it came to refer to the group now known as "Hazara."
The Hazara were traditionally nomads who subsisted by herding sheep and goats; they also raised horses for fighting feuds. Mixed grain farming is now their primary subsistence activity. Most of the farming takes place on the alluvial floors of the valleys, but the higher ground is also used in various ways. Irrigation is used wherever possible. Small numbers of sheep and goats are herded in the valleys in winter, in the mountains in summer. Major crops include wheat and barley; fava beans are planted in rotation whenever necessary. Milk products are the main source of protein. Wool is a source of fiber, and Hazara women make woolen rugs of the Gilam type.
Hazara kinship is organized in lineages; descent is traced through the male line. The males in a specific area consider themselves descendants of a common ancestor. Although memory of tribal lineages traditionally extended back seven or eight generations, people probably remember no more than half that number today. Leading men within a village resolve any social conflicts by consensus.
The Hazara prefer to marry first cousins on their father's side, as is the Muslim practice, and there are many intravil1age marriages. Hazara seldom marry outsiders, and, when they do, it is usually women who are given to men of other groups. The children of such unions are not usually considered Hazara.
Tribal authority was formerly vested in mirs or khanates, but, after the Hazara-Afghan war of 1891, Hazara power was weakened. There are two kinds of political leaders today, the khanawada, or khan, and the araab or malek. The khanawada's influence is based on personal wealth, kinship, and social alliances. The araab is an appointed representative. Holders of these positions are generally relatives and allies.
The sayyid, an Islamic authority, is also an influential person among the Shia Hazara. Sayyids claim descent from the Prophet Mohammed and are highly venerated by the Hazara. A group of sayyids live among the Hazara, and, because they take wives from the Hazara, they now resemble the Hazara in culture and appearance. These authorities use their sacred status to serve the religious needs of the people, and they are part of a large informal network that has been mobilized to exert influence on public affairs.
The Hazara are one of Afghanistan's most impoverished ethnic groups and one of the most resistant to central-government control. Although there have been few studies in recent years, it is believed that the Hazara have been virtually free of government control since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the civil unrest following the end of Soviet occupation.
Aslanov, M. G., et al. (1969). "Ethnography of Afghanistan." In Afghanistan: Some New Approaches, edited by G. Grassmuck, L. W. Ademec, and F. H. Irwin. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Bacon, Elizabeth E. (1951). "An Inquiry into the History of the Hazara Mongols of Afghanistan." Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 7:230-247.
Canfield, Robert L. (1975). "Suffering as a Religious Imperative in Afghanistan." In Psychological Anthropology, edited by Thomas Williams. The Hague: Mouton.
Canfield, Robert L. (1984). "Hazaras." In Muslim Peoples: A World Ethnographic Survey, edited by Richard V. Weekes, 327-332. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
Davydov, A. D. (1965). "Rural Community of the Hazaras of Central Afghanistan." Central Asian Review 14(1): 32-44.
Dupree, Louis. (1979). "Further Notes on Taqiyya: Afghanistan." Journal of American Oriental Society 99(4): 680-682.
Ferdinand, Klaus (1965). "Ethnographical Notes on Chahar Aimak, Hazara, and Moghol." Acta Orientalia 28(3-4): 175-204.
Grimes, Barbara F. (1988). Ethnologue. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
Kakar, M. Hasan (1973). Pacification of the Hazaras of Afghanistan. New York: Afghanistan Council of the Asia Society.