The Aryan race was a racial grouping commonly used in the period of the late 19th century to the mid 20th century to describe peoples of Indo-European Eurasian heritage. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or subrace of the larger Caucasian race.
Aryanism developed as a racial ideology that claimed that the Aryan race was a master race. While originally meant simply as a neutral ethno-linguistic classification, from the late 19th century onwards the concept of the Aryan race has been used by proponents of ideologically-motivated racism and white supremacism such as in doctrines of Nazism and neo-Nazism.
The term Aryan originates from the Sanskrit word ārya, in origin an ethnic self-designation, in Classical Sanskrit meaning "honourable, respectable, noble".
In the 18th century, the most ancient known Indo-European languages were those of the ancient Indo-Iranians. The word Aryan was therefore adopted to refer not only to the Indo-Iranian peoples, but also to native Indo-European speakers as a whole, including the Romans, Greeks, and the Germans. It was soon recognised that Balts, Celts, and Slavs also belonged to the same group. It was argued that all of these languages originated from a common root—now known as Proto-Indo-European—spoken by an ancient people who were thought of as ancestors of the European, Iranian, and Indo-Aryan peoples. The ethnic group composed of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and their modern descendants was termed the "Aryans".
This usage was common in the late 19th and early 20th century. An example of an influential best-selling book that reflects this usage is the 1920 book The Outline of History by H. G. Wells. Wells wrote about the accomplishments of the Aryan people, stating how they "learned methods of civilization" while "Sargon II and Sardanapalus were ruling in Assyria and fighting with Babylonia and Syria and Egypt". As such, Wells suggested that the Aryans had eventually "subjugated the whole ancient world, Semitic, Aegean and Egyptian alike". In the 1944 edition of Rand McNally’s World Atlas, the Aryan race is depicted as being one of the ten major racial groupings of mankind. The science fiction author Poul Anderson (1926–2001), an anti-racist libertarian of Scandinavian ancestry, in his many novels, novellas, and short stories, consistently used the term Aryan as a synonym for Indo-Europeans. He spoke of the Aryan bird of prey which impelled those of the Aryan race to take the lead in developing interstellar travel, colonize habitable planets in other planetary systems and become leading business entrepreneurs on the newly colonized planets.
The use of "Aryan" as a synonym for "Indo-European" or to a lesser extent for "Indo-Iranian", is regarded today by many[who?] as obsolete and politically incorrect, but may still occasionally appear in material based on older scholarship, or written by persons accustomed to older usage, such as in a 1989 article in Scientific American by Colin Renfrew in which he uses the word "Aryan" in its traditional meaning as a synonym for "Indo-European". However, the term Indo-Aryan is still commonly used to describe the Indic half of the Indo-Iranian languages, i.e. the family that includes Sanskrit and modern languages such as Hindi, Urdu and Bengali.
Models of the Indo-Aryan migration discuss scenarios of prehistoric migrations of the early Indo-Aryans to their historically attested areas of settlement in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent and from there further across all of North India. Claims of Indo-Aryan migration are primarily drawn from linguistic evidence but also from a multitude of data stemming from genetics, Vedic religion, rituals, poetics as well as some aspects of social organization and chariot technology.
All discussion of historical Indo-Aryan migrations or Aryan and Dravidian races remains highly controversial in India to this day, and continues to affect political and religious debate. Some Dravidians, and supporters of the Dalit movement, most commonly Tamils, claim that the worship of Shiva is a distinct Dravidian religion going back to the Indus Civilization, to be distinguished from Brahminical "Aryan" Hinduism. In contrast others argues that no Aryan invasion or migration ever occurred, asserting that Vedic beliefs emerged from the Indus Valley Civilisation, which pre-dated the supposed advent of the Indo-Aryans in India, and is identified as a likely candidate for a Proto-Dravidian culture.
Some Indians were also influenced by the debate about the Aryan race during the British Raj. The Indian nationalist V. D. Savarkar believed in the theory that an "Aryan race" migrated to India, but he didn't find much value in a racialized interpretation of the "Aryan race". Some Indian nationalists supported the British version of the theory because it gave them the prestige of common descent with the ruling British class.
A genetic study in the year 2000 in Andhra Pradesh state of India found that the upper caste Hindus shared marginally more mitochondrial DNA with west Eurasian populations than did Hindus from lower castes, although the majority of mitochondrial DNA in both upper and lower Hindu castes was of Asian stock.
A 2003 report stated that upper caste Hindus shared marginally more mitochondrial DNA with west Eurasian groups than did lower caste Hindu groups. The majority of mitochondrial DNA, however, was indigenous to South Asia, suggesting limited gene flow in and out of South Asia.
However, a study conducted by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in 2009 (in collaboration with Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT) analyzed half a million genetic markers across the genomes of 132 individuals from 25 ethnic groups from 13 states in India across multiple caste groups. The study asserts, based on the impossibility of identifying any genetic indicators across caste lines, that castes in South Asia grew out of traditional tribal organizations during the formation of Indian society, and was not the product of any Aryan invasion and "subjugation" of Dravidian people.
In 19th century physical anthropology, represented by some[who?] as being scientific racism, the "Aryan race" was defined as the subgroup of the Caucasian (or Europid) race consisting of the native speakers of Indo-European languages descended from the original Proto-Indo-Europeans, that in modern times reside in Northern India, Eastern India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Europe, Iran, Armenia, Tajikistan, Anglo-America, Quebec, Southern South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Afghanistan, Pakistan and in Asian Russia.
The original 19th-century and early 20th-century use of the term Aryan referred to "the early speakers of Proto-Indo European and their descendents". Max Müller is often identified as the first writer to speak of an Aryan "race" in English. In his Lectures on the Science of Language in 1861 he referred to Aryans as a "race of people". At the time, the term race had the meaning of "a group of tribes or peoples, an ethnic group".
When Müller's statement was interpreted to imply a biologically distinct sub-group of humanity, he soon clarified that he simply meant a line of descent, insisting that it was very dangerous to mix linguistics and anthropology. "The Science of Language and the Science of Man cannot be kept too much asunder ... I must repeat what I have said many times before, it would be wrong to speak of Aryan blood as of dolichocephalic grammar". He restated his opposition to this method in 1888 in his essay Biographies of words and the home of the Aryas.
Müller was responding to the development of racial anthropology, and the influence of the work of Arthur de Gobineau who argued that the Indo-Europeans represented a superior branch of humanity. A number of later writers, such as the French anthropologist Vacher de Lapouge in his book L'Aryen, argued that this superior branch could be identified biologically by using the cephalic index (a measure of head shape) and other indicators. He argued that the long-headed "dolichocephalic-blond" Europeans, characteristically found in northern Europe, were natural leaders, destined to rule over more "brachiocephalic" (short headed) peoples.
The division of the Caucasian race into Aryans, Semites and Hamites is in origin linguistic, not based on physical anthropology, the division in physical anthropology being that into Nordic, Alpine and Mediterranean. However, the linguistic classification of "Aryan" later became closely associated, and conflated, with the classification of "Nordic" among some archaeologists and anthropologists.
This claim became increasingly important during the 19th century. In the mid-19th century, it was commonly believed that the Aryans originated in the southwestern steppes of present-day Russia. However, by the late 19th century the steppe theory of Aryan origins was challenged by the view that the Aryans originated in ancient Germany or Scandinavia, or at least that in those countries the original Aryan ethnicity had been preserved. The German origin of the Aryans was especially promoted by the archaeologist Gustaf Kossinna, who claimed that the Proto-Indo-European peoples were identical to the Corded Ware culture of Neolithic Germany. This idea was widely circulated in both intellectual and popular culture by the early twentieth century, and is reflected in the concept of "Corded-Nordics" in Carleton S. Coon's 1939 The Races of Europe.
Other anthropologists contested such claims. In Germany, Rudolf Virchow launched a study of craniometry, which prompted him to denounce "Nordic mysticism" in the 1885 Anthropology Congress in Karlsruhe, while Josef Kollmann, a collaborator of Virchow, stated in the same congress that the people of Europe, be they English, German, French, and Spaniard belonged to a "mixture of various races," furthermore declaring that the "results of craniology...[are] against any theory concerning the superiority of this or that European race" to others.
Virchow's contribution to the debate sparked a controversy. Houston Stewart Chamberlain, a strong supporter of the theory of a superior Aryan race, attacked Josef Kollmann arguments in detail. While the "Aryan race" theory remained popular, particularly in Germany, some authors defended Virchow's perspective, in particular Otto Schrader, Rudolph von Jhering and the ethnologist Robert Hartmann (1831–1893), who proposed to ban the notion of "Aryan" from anthropology.
The 4th edition of Meyers Konversationslexikon (Leipzig, 1885-1890) shows the Caucasian race (in various shades of grayish blue-green) as comprising Aryans, Semites, and Hamites. Aryans are further subdivided into European Aryans and Indo-Aryans (the term "Indo-Aryans" was then used to describe those now called Indo-Iranians).
Guido von List (and his followers such as Lanz von Liebenfels) later took up some of Blavatsky's ideas, mixing her ideology with nationalistic and fascist ideas; this system of thought became known as Ariosophy. It was believed in Ariosophy that the Teutonics were superior to all other peoples because according to Theosophy the Teutonics or Nordics were the most recent subrace of the Aryan root race to have evolved. Such views also fed into the development of Nazi ideology. Theosophical publications such as The Aryan Path were strongly opposed to the Nazi usage, attacking racialism.
The ideology of Nazism was based upon the conception of the Aryan race being a master race. The Nazi conception of the Aryan race arose from earlier proponents of a supremacist conception of the race as described by racial theorist figures such as Arthur de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain. The Nazis were divided on some parts of the constitution of the Aryan race.
Nazi racial theorist Hans F. K. Günther identified the Aryan race in Europe as having five subtype races: Nordic, Mediterranean, Dinaric, Alpine, and East Baltic. Günther applied a Nordicist conception that Nordics were the highest in the racial hierarchy amongst these five Aryan subtype races. In his book Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes (1922) ("Racial Science of the German People"), Günther recognized Germans as being composed of all five Aryan subtypes, but emphasized the strong Nordic heritage amongst Germans. He defined each racial subtype according to general physical appearance and their psychological qualities including their "racial soul" - referring to their emotional traits and religious beliefs, and provided detailed information on their hair, eye, and skin colours, facial structure. He provided photographs of Germans identified as Nordic in places like Bedan, Stuttgart, Salzburg, and Schwaben; and provided photographs of Germans he identified as Alpine and Mediterranean types, especially in Vorarlberg, Bavaria, and the Black Forest region of Baden. Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler read Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes that influenced his racial policy, and with Nazi backing, Günther attained a position in the anthropology department at the University of Jena in 1932 where Hitler attended Günther's inaugural lecture at Jena.
Günther distinguished Aryans from Jews, and identified Jews as descending from non-European races, and particularly what he classified as the Near Asian race (Vorderasiatische) more commonly known as the Armenoid race, and said that such origins rendered Jews as fundamentally different and incompatible with Germans and most Europeans. This association of Jews with the Armenoid type had been utilized by Zionist Jews who claimed that Jews were a group within that type. He claimed that the Near Eastern race descended from the Caucasus in the fifth and fourth millennia BC, and that it had expanded into Asia Minor and Mesopotamia and eventually to the west coat of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Aside from ascribing Armenians and Jews as having Near Eastern characteristics, he ascribed them to several other contemporary peoples, including: Greeks, Turks, Syrians, and Iranians. In his work Racial Characteristics of the Jewish People, he defined the racial soul of the Near Eastern race as emphasizing a "commercial spirit" (Handelgeist), and describing them as "artful traders" - a term that Gunther ascribed as being used by Jewish racial theorist Samuel Weissenberg to describe contemporary Armenians, Greeks, and Jews. Günther added to that description of the Near Eastern type being commercially spirited and artful traders, that the type held strong psychological manipulation skills that aided them in trade. He claimed that the Near Eastern race had been "bred not so much for the conquest and exploitation of nature as it was for the conquest and exploitation of people".
Hitler's conception of the Aryan race explicitly excluded the vast majority of Slavs from being part of the master race, regarding Slavs as having dangerous Jewish and Asiatic influences. The Nazis because of this declared Slavs to be untermenschen (subhumans). Exceptions were made for certain Slavs who were deemed to have sufficient Aryan characteristics. Hitler described Slavs as "a mass of born slaves who feel the need of a master". Hitler declared that because Slavs were subhumans that the Geneva Conventions were not applicable to them, and German soldiers in World War II were thus permitted to ignore the Geneva Conventions in regards to Slavs. Hitler called Slavs "a rabbit family" meaning they were intrinsically idle and disorganized. Nazi Germany's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels had media speak of Slavs as primitive animals whom were from the Siberian tundra who were like a "dark wave of filth". The Nazi notion of Slavs being inferior was part of the agenda for creating Lebensraum ("living space") for Germans and other Germanic people in eastern Europe that was initiated during World War II under Generalplan Ost, millions of Germans and other Germanic settlers would be moved into conquered territories of Eastern Europe, while the original Slavic inhabitants were to be annihilated, removed, or enslaved. Nazi Germany's ally the Independent State of Croatia rejected the common conception that Croats were primarily a Slavic people and claimed that Croats were primarily the descendents of the Germanic Goths. However the Nazi regime continued to classify Croats as "subhuman" in spite of the alliance. Nazi Germany's policy changed towards Slavs in response to military manpower shortages, in which it accepted Slavs to serve in its armed forces within occupied territories, in spite of them being considered subhuman, as a pragmatic means to resolve such manpower shortages. Hitler often doubted whether Czechs were Aryan or not, he said in his table talk "It is enough for a Czech to grow a moustache for anyone to see, from the way the thing droops, that his origin is Mongoloian. After the occupation of Poland, most Poles were regarded as untermenschen to be used by Germany as manual labourers. The question of whether Italians were Aryan enough was questioned by the Nazi racial theorists, Hitler viewed northern Italians as strongly Aryan but not southern Italians. The Nazis viewed the downfall of the Roman Empire as being the result of the pollution of blood from racial intermixing, claiming that Italians were a hybrid of races, including black African races. Hitler even mentioned his view of the presence of Negroid blood in the Mediterranean peoples during his first meeting with Mussolini in 1934.
German Interior Ministry official Albert Gorter drafted an official definition of the Aryan Race for the new Civil Service Law that included European Aryans and Asian Aryans of the subtype race known as Irano-Afghan. However Achim Gerke revised Gorter's draft of the Civil Service Law by removing such contemporary Asian people from the definition of the Aryan race, as they were considered too foreign to be connected with the Aryan Race as in Europe.
The idea of the Northern origins of the Aryans was particularly influential in Germany. It was widely believed that the "Vedic Aryans" were ethnically identical to the Goths, Vandals and other ancient Germanic peoples of the Völkerwanderung. This idea was often intertwined with antisemitic ideas. The distinctions between the "Aryan" and "Semitic" peoples were based on the aforementioned linguistic and ethnic history. A complete, highly speculative theory of Aryan and anti-Semitic history can be found in Alfred Rosenberg's major work, The Myth of the Twentieth Century. Rosenberg's account of ancient history, melded with his racial speculations, proved to be very effective in spreading racialism among German intellectuals in the early twentieth century, especially after the First World War.
Semitic peoples came to be seen as a foreign presence within Aryan societies, and the Semitic peoples were often pointed to as the cause of conversion and destruction of social order and values leading to culture and civilization's downfall by proto-Nazi theorists such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain.
These and other ideas evolved into the Nazi use of the term "Aryan race" to refer to what they saw as being a master race, which was narrowly defined by the Nazis as being identical with the Nordic race, followed by other sub-races of the Aryan race. They worked to maintain the purity of this race through eugenics programs (including anti-miscegenation legislation, compulsory sterilization of the mentally ill and the mentally deficient, the execution of the institutionalized mentally ill as part of a euthanasia program).
Heinrich Himmler (the Reichsführer of the SS), the person ordered by Adolf Hitler to implement the Final Solution, or The Holocaust, told his personal masseur Felix Kersten that he always carried with him a copy of the ancient Aryan scripture, the Bhagavad Gita because it relieved him of guilt about what he was doing – he felt that like the warrior Arjuna, he was simply doing his duty without attachment to his actions.
Since the military defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allies in 1945, most neo-Nazis have expanded their concept of the Aryan race, moving from the Nazi concept that the purest Aryans were the Teutonics or Nordics of Northern Europe to the idea that the true Aryans are everyone descended from the Western or European branch of the Indo-European peoples because it is believed that they most closely resemble the original racial stock of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Although admitting that those of the Eastern or Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European peoples are "Aryans" in name, it is felt that they are not really true Aryans because it is believed that the Iranian peoples are mostly too intermixed with the Arabs and Mongols, and the Indo-Aryans are mostly too intermixed with the Dravidians, to still be pure Aryans.
Moderate white nationalists who embrace what is called Pan-Aryanism want to establish a democratically governed Aryan Federation. It is envisioned that the North American part of the "Aryan Federation" would be a new nation for Euro-Anglo Americans (European Americans and English Canadians) called Vinland which would include what is now the northern United States and all of Canada except Quebec, and which would use the Vinland flag.
On the other hand, according to Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, many neo-Nazis want to establish an autocratic state modeled after Nazi Germany to be called the Western Imperium. It is believed this proposed state would be able to attain world domination by combining the nuclear arsenals of the four major Aryan world powers, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia under a single military command.
This proposed state would be led by a Führer-like figure called the Vindex, and would include all areas inhabited by the "Aryan race", as conceived by Neo-Nazis. Only those of the Aryan race would be full citizens of the state. The "Western Imperium" would embark on a vigorous and dynamic program of space exploration, followed by the creation by genetic engineering of a super race called Homo Galactica. The concept of the "Western Imperium" as outlined in the previous three sentences is based on the original concept of the Imperium as outlined in the 1947 book Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics by Francis Parker Yockey as further updated, extended and refined in the early 1990s in pamphlets published by David Myatt.
A neo-Nazi esoteric Nazi Gnostic sect headquartered in Vienna, Austria called the Tempelhofgesellschaft, founded in the early 1990s, teaches a form of what it calls Marcionism. They distribute pamphlets claiming that the Aryan race originally came to Atlantis from the star Aldebaran.
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