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The Iranian world (perceived not only as Iran, but the whole Persian-speaking and culturally "Persianate" area, including Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Tajikistan parts of Central Asia and Indian Subcontinent) is nowadays a sensitive region of the Middle East, and the focus of public opinion is on its political developments. But it should not be forgotten, that this is also a distinct cultural area with an extremely rich and complex history, with a mosaic of ethnic and religious groups, with ancient languages and dialects, with wonderful and sophisticated literatures, with not only fascinating ancient beliefs and traditions, but also amazing dynamics of modern change combined with an uninterrupted continuation. The Iranian past and present still reveal unknown, surprising aspects, opening up prospects for new research. Without knowledge of its cultural background with all its richness and complexity, the understanding of the contemporary Iranian world would not be possible.

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