November 24, 2003 3,000 Years of Zoroastrian Culture is Celebrated by Kluge Center

Seminar to be held on Dec. 11

Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692

The John W. Kluge Center, in cooperation with the World Zoroastrian Organisation (WZO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), celebrates the UNESCO-declared 3,000th anniversary of Zoroastrian religion and culture with a seminar titled "Zarathustra's Contributions to Humanity," from 2 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11. The program will be held in Room LJ 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, 10 First Street S.E, Washington, D.C. It is free and open to the public, and no tickets are required.

During the 162nd session of their general conference in 2001, UNESCO’s member states agreed to celebrate the 3,000th anniversary of Zoroastrian religion and culture during 2002-2003. Zarathustra was one of humanity’s seminal thinkers, whose concepts have long since been adopted as the ethical and philosophical base of many faiths embraced by humanity today. While the anniversary approximates the date when Zarathustra’s orally transmitted teachings - the Gathas - began to be collected, the religion itself is nearly a millennium older.

Zoroastrianism and its culture are historically associated in the West with the brilliant Persian civilizations of the Achaemenians, Parthians and Sasanians. Zoroastrian monotheistic traditions and culture first spread from eastern Persia along the Silk Road to Central Asia and as far east as China. Around 550 B.C., those traditions returned to the ancient Iranian plateau and spread westward across Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Caucasus up to the borders of Greece and south to the Arabian peninsula and North Africa. Today’s adherents of Zoroastrianism can be found in all corners of the globe, although most of them are concentrated in India, Iran, Europe and North America.

Speakers at the Library of Congress seminar are Jehan Bagli, president of the North American Zoroastrian Mobeds (Clergy) Council, speaking on "Zarathustra’s Times and His Monotheistic, Universal Faith"; Stanley Insler, chairman of the Iranian Language Studies Department at Yale University, whose topic is "Zarathustra's Gathas: Basic Doctrines and Philosophy"; and Farhang Mehr, professor emeritus at Boston University and deputy prime minister of Iran under the Shah, who will discuss "Zoroastrianism’s Influence on World Religions and the Relevance of Its Concepts to Today’s Humanity."

Former Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish became the first U.S. member of UNESCO’s governing body after World War II and chaired the first UNESCO conference in Paris. This program is the first to be co-sponsored by UNESCO with the United States since the U.S. rejoined UNESCO in October.

A generous endowment from John W. Kluge in 2000 enabled the Library of Congress to establish the John W. Kluge Center, to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate, energize and distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington, D.C. The center houses five senior Kluge Chairs as well as a number of postdoctoral fellows. In addition, it sponsors a number of programs that highlight research in the humanities and culture. For information about the fellowships, grants and programs offered by the John W. Kluge Center, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4860; telephone (202) 707-3302, fax (202) 707-3595, or visit the Web at

The World Zoroastrian Organisation was established in 1980 in London as the world body of the Zoroastrians, whose purpose is to relate to governments and other international organizations and to foster research in and advance the understanding of Zoroastrianism, its history and culture. For more information about the World Zoroastrian Organisation, visit the Web at


PR 03-196
ISSN 0731-3527