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Assyrian People
A proposed flag for the Chaldean people.
Total population
3.3 Million
Regions with significant populations
Iraq, Syria, Iran , Turkey , USA , Sweden , Jordan , Germany , Australia

Assyrian Neo-Aramaic



The term Assyrianism refers to Assyrian nationalism which originated in the 19th century and is in direct opposition to Pan-Arabism.

Assyrianism is the ideology of a united Assyrian people, coupled with the irredentist quest for Assyrian independence. It attempts to preserve Assyrian culture, even in Diaspora, by educating new generations of Assyrians of the history, culture, and future of the Assyrian nation.[1]



The quest for Assyrian independence is a political movement and ideology that supports the creation of nation state corresponding to the Assyrian homeland, in the Nineveh plains of Northern Iraq. The issue of Assyrian independence has been brought up many times throughout the course of history from the end of World War I to the present-day Iraq War. The Assyrian-inhabited area of Iraq is located in the Ninawa-Mosul region in Northern Iraq where the biblical Assyrian capital of Nineveh was located.[2] This area is known as the "Assyrian Triangle."[3]

In post-Ba'thist Iraq, the Assyrian Democratic Movement (or ADM) was one of the smaller political parties that emerged in the social chaos of the occupation[4]. Its officials say that while members of the ADM also took part in the liberation of the key oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul in the north, the Assyrians were not invited to join the steering committee that was charged with defining Iraq's future.


Within the Assyrian population, Assyrianism meets resistance as the result of confessional boundaries, in particular the christological division between the Syriac Orthodox Church ("West Syriac") and the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church ("East Syriac"). The first two churches are not divided by a formally declared schism, but their doctrine has moved so far apart for mutual accusations of heresy.

According to Raif Toma, Assyrianism goes beyond mere Syriac patriotism, and ultimately aims at the unification of all "Mesopotamians", properly qualifying as "Pan-Mesopotamianism". This variant of Assyrianism is independent of Christian denomination and qualifies as ethnic nationalism, in that it identifies the Assyrian people as the heirs of the Assyrian Empire, and as the indigenous population of Mesopotamia, as opposed to the Arabism, which are identified as an intrusive element due to the Muslim conquests. This is expressed e.g. in the Assyrian calendar introduced in the 1950, which chooses as its era 6700 BC, the estimated date of construction of the first (pre-historical, pre-Semitic) temple at Assur.

Organisations advocating Assyrianism are the Assyrian Universal Alliance (since 1968) and Shuraya (since 1978). The Assyrian flag was designed by the Assyrian Universal Alliance in 1968. [5]

Continuity claims

Following the sack of Nineveh in 608 BC, the population of the Assyrian Empire has been under Persian, Greek and Roman rule for seven centuries before undergoing Christianization. There is some debate as to whether the Syrians of the Early Christian period had retained any "Assyrian" ethnic identity. In Assyrian nationalism, this possibility is endorsed emphatically. It is certain that there had been some Assyrian resistance to Persian rule in Achaemenid Assyria. H. W. F. Saggs in his The Might That Was Assyria supports cultural continuity[6] Doubt on the continuity hypothesis is based on the lack of Assyrian (East Semitic) personal names in Roman Syria.[7] Odisho Gewargis explained the disappearance of autochthonous personal names as a process taking place only after Christianization[8]

Sidney Smith rejects the continuity hypothesis:

The disappearance of the Assyrian People will always remain a unique and striking phenomenon in ancient history. Other similar kingdoms and empires have indeed died, but people have lived on. Recent discoveries have, it is true, shown that poverty-stricken communities perpetuated the old Assyrian names at various places, for instance on the ruined site of Ashur, for many centuries, but the essential truth remains the same. A nation, which had existed for two thousand years and had ruled over a wide area, lost its independent character.[9]

Simo Parpola accepts continuity.[10]

J. A. Brinkman is agnostic, putting the burden of proof on those denying continuity:

There is no reason to believe that there would be no racial or cultural continuity in Assyria, since there is no evidence that the population of Assyria was removed.[11]

Similarly, Robert D. Biggs assumes genealogical continuity without prejudicing cultural continuity:

Especially in view of the very early establishment of Christianity in Assyria and its continuity to the present and the continuity of the population, I think there is every likelihood that ancient Assyrians are among the ancestors of modern Assyrians of the area.[12]

Regarding cultural continuity, Biggs speaks of a small "remnant" of ethnic Assyrian continuity, surviving into the Christian era as a substrate to mainstream Persian and Greco-Roman culture:

In Achaemenian times there was an Assyrian detachment in the Persian army, but they could only have been a remnant. That remnant persisted through the centuries to the Christian era, and continued to use in their personal names appellations of their pagan deities. This continuance of an Assyrian tradition is significant for two reasons; the miserable conditions of these late Assyrians is attested to by the excavations at Ashur, and it is clear that they were reduced to extreme poverty under Persian rule.[13]

The tenth-century Arab scholar Abu al-Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Nadim, while describing the books and scripture of many people defines the word Ashuriyun (Arabic for Assyrian) as

“Their master and chief is named Ibn Siqtiri ibn Ashuri. They collect revenues and profits. In some things they agree with the Jews and about other things they disagree with them. They appear to be a sect of Jesus”.[14]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Minorities in the Middle East: a history of struggle and self-expression By Mordechai Nisan
  3. ^ The Origins of War: From the Stone Age to Alexander the Great By Arther Ferrill - Page 70
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Saggs, pp. 290, "The destruction of the Assyrian Empire did not wipe out its population. They were predominantly peasant farmers, and since Assyria contains some of the best wheat land in the Near East, descendants of the Assyrian peasants would, as opportunity permitted, build new villages over the old cities and carried on with agricultural life, remembering traditions of the former cities. After seven or eight centuries and after various vicissitudes, these people became Christians. These Christians, and the Jewish communities scattered amongst them, not only kept alive the memory of their Assyrian predecessors but also combined them with traditions from the Bible."
  7. ^ Joseph, The Bible and the Assyrians: It Kept their Memory Alive, pp. 76
  8. ^ Odisho, We Are Assyrians, pp. 89, "If the children of Sennacherib were, for centuries, taught to pray and damn Babylon and Assyria, how does the researcher expect from people who wholeheartedly accepted the Christian faith to name their children Ashur and Esarhaddon?"
  9. ^ Yildiz, pp. 16, ref 3
  10. ^ Assyrians After Assyria, Parpola
  11. ^ Yildiz, pp. 22, ref 24
  12. ^ Biggs, pp. 10
  13. ^ Yildiz, pp. 17, ref 9
  14. ^ The Fihrist (Catalog): A Tench Century Survey of Islamic Culture. Abu 'l Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq al Nadim. Great Books of the Islamic World, Kazi Publications. Translator: Bayard Dodge.

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