Gilan Province

Gilan Province

Infobox Iran Province
province_name = Gilan
ostan_name = گیلان

capital = Rasht
latd = 37.2774
longd = 49.5890
area = 14,042
pop = 2,410,523
pop_year = 2005
pop_density = 171.7
sub_provinces = 16
languages= Gilaki Talysh Persian Tati

Gilan ( _fa. گیلان) is one of the provinces of Iran. It lies along the Caspian Sea, just west of the province of Mazandaran, east of the province of Ardabil, north of the provinces of Zanjan and Qazvin. Northern part of province is part of territory of South (Iranian) Talysh.The center of the province is the city of Rasht. Other towns in the province include Astara, Astaneh-e Ashrafiyyeh, Fuman, Lahijan, Langrud, Masouleh, Manjil, Rudbar, Roudsar, Talesh, and Soumahe Sara.

The main harbor port of the province is Bandar-e Anzali (previously Bandar-e Pahlavi).


The first recorded encounter between Gilak and Deylamite warlords and invading Muslim Arab armies was in the battle of Jalula in 647 AD. Deylamite commander Muta led an army of Gils, Deylamites, Azarbaijanis, and people of Rayy region. Muta was killed in the battle and his defeated army managed to retreat in an orderly manner. But this victory appears to have been a Pyrrhic victory for Arabs, since they did not pursue their opponents. Muslim Arabs never managed to conquer Gilan. Gilaks and Deylamites successfully repulsed any Arab attempt to occupy their land or to convert them to Islam. In fact, it was the Deylamites under the Buyid king Mu'izz al-Dawlah who finally shifted the power by conquerring Baghdad in 945. Mu'izz al-Dawlah however allowed the Abbasid caliphs to remain in comfortable but secluded captivity in their palace [] .

In 9th and 10th centuries CE, Deylamites and later Gilaks gradually converted to Zaidite Shi'ism. It is worth noting that several Deylamite commanders and soldiers of fortune who were active in the military theatres of Iran and Mesopotamia were openly Zoroastrian (for example, Asfar Shiruyeh a warlord in central Iran, and Makan son of Kaki the warlord of Rayy) or were suspected of harboring pro-Zoroastrian (for example Mardavij) sentiments. Muslim chronicles of Varangian (Rus, pre-Russian Norsemen) invasion of the litoral Caspian region in the 9th century record Deylamites as non-Muslim. These chronicles also show that the Deylamite were the only warriors in the Caspian region who could fight the fearsome Varangian vikings as equals. In a way, Deylamite infantrymen had a role very similar to the Swiss Reisläufer of the Late Middle Ages in Europe. Deylamite mercenaries served as far as Egypt, Islamic Spain, and Khazar kingdom.

Buyids established the most successful of the Deylamite dynasties of Iran.

Turkish invasions of 10th and 11th centuries CE, which saw the rise of Ghaznavid and Seljuk dynasties, put an end to Deylamite states in Iran. From 11th century CE to the rise of Safavids, Gilan was ruled by local rulers who paid tribute to the dominant power south of the Alborz range, but ruled independently.

Before introduction of silk production to this region (date unknown, but definitely a pillar of the economy by the 15th century CE), Gilan was a poor province. There were no permanent trade routes linking Gilan to Persia. There was a small trade in smoked fish and wood products. It seems that the city of Qazvin was initially a fortress-town against marauding bands of Deylamites, another sign that the economy of the province did not produce enough. It all changed with the introduction of silk worm sometime in the late Middle Ages.

Modern history

The Safavid emperor, Shah Abbas I ended the rule of Kia Ahmad Khan, the last semi-independent ruler of Gilan, and annexed the province directly to his empire. From this point in history onward, rulers of Gilan were appointed by the Persian Shah.

The Safavid empire became weak towards the end of the 17th century CE. By the early 18th century, the once mighty Safavid empire was in the grips of civil war. Peter I of Russia (Peter the Great) sent an expeditionary force that occupied Gilan for a year (1722-1723).

Qajars established a central government in Persia (Iran) in late 18th century CE. They lost a series of wars to Russia (Russo-Persian Wars 1804-1813 and 1826-28), resulting in enormous gain of influence by the Russian empire in the Caspian region. Gilanian cities of Rasht and Anzali were all but occupied by the Russian forces. Anzali served as the main trading port between Iran and Europe.

Gilan was a major producer of silk beginning in 15th century CE. As a result, it was one of the wealthiest provinces in Iran. Safavid annexation in 16th century was at least partially motivated by this revenue stream. Silk trade, though not the production, was a monopoly of the Crown and the single most important source of trade revenue for the imperial treasury. As early as 16th century and until mid 19th century CE, Gilan was the major exporter of silk in Asia. The Shah farmed out this trade to Greek and Armenian merchants, and would receive a portion of the proceeds.

In the mid 19th century, a widespread fatal epidemic in silk worms paralyzed Gilan's economy, causing widespread economic distress. Gilan's budding industrialists and merchants were increasingly dissatisfied with the weak and ineffective rule of Qajars. Reoreintation of Gilan's agriculture and industry from silk to production of rice and introduction of tea plantations where a partial answer to decline of silk in the province.

After World War I, Gilan came to be ruled independently of the central government of Tehran and concern arose that the province might permanently separate at some point. Prior to the war, Gilanis had played an important role in the Constitutional Revolution of Iran. Sepahdar Tonekaboni (Rashti) was a prominent figure in the early years of the revolution and was instrumental in defeating Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar. In later years (late 1910s), many Gilakis gathered under the leadership of Mirza Kouchak Khan Jangali. Mirza Kochak Kahn became the most prominent revolutionary leader in northern Iran in this period. His movement, known as the "Jangalis" (Foresters Movement), had sent an armed brigade to Tehran which helped depose the Qajar ruler Mohammad Ali Shah. However, the revolution did not progress the way the constitutionalists had strived for, and Iran came to face much internal unrest and foreign intervention, particularly from the British and Russian Empires.

Gilan's contribution to the movement of Mirza Kouchak Khan Jangali, known as the Constitutionalist movement of Gilan (also "Jangalis") is glorified in Iranian history and effectively secured Gilan and Mazandaran against foreign invasions. However, in 1920 British forces invaded Bandar-e Anzali, while being pursued by the Bolsheviks. In the midst of this conflict between Britain and Russia, the Jangalis entered into an alliance with the Bolsheviks against the British. This culminated in the establishment of the Persian Socialist Soviet Republic (commonly known as the Socialist Republic of Gilan), which lasted from June 1920 until September 1921. In February 1921 the Soviets withdrew their support for the Jangali government of Gilan, and signed the Soviet-Iranian Friendship Treaty with the central government of Tehran. The Jangalis continued to struggle against the central government for the rest of that year until their final defeat in September when control of Gilan returned to Tehran.

Administrative Divisions

Geography and climate

Gilan has a humid temperate climate with plenty of annual rainfall. The city Rasht which is the center of the province is well-known globally as the "City of Silver Rains" and also known as the "City of Rain" around Iran. The Alborz range provides further diversity to the land in addition to the Caspian coasts.

The amount of humidity is truely high in the warm seasons of the year in Guilan, however the coastlines are much cool and pleasant in the same time and thousands of domestic and foreign tourists come to the seashore for swimming and camping.

Despite of the abundant humidity, Guilan is known for its moderate, mild and Mediterranean-like climate which makes it a suitable and proper place for weekend holidays or long-term stays.

Large parts of the province are mountainous, green and forested. The coastal plain along the Caspian Sea is similar to that of Mazandaran, mainly used for rice paddies.

In May 1990 large parts of the province were destroyed by a huge earthquake, in which about 45,000 people died. Abbas Kiarostami made his famous films "Life, and Nothing More..." and "Through the Olive Trees" based upon this event.

People and culture

The majority of the population speaks Gilaki as their first language while many children, particularly in the cities, tend to use Standard Persian amongst themselves. Northern part of province habitated by Talyshs. The Kurdish language is used by some Kurds that has moved from Khorasan to Amarlu region. Language of Rudbar is Tati.

Gilan's position in between the Tehran-Baku trade route has established the cities of Bandar-e Anzali and Rasht as ranking amongst the most important commercial centers in Iran. As a result, the merchant and middle-classes comprise a significant percentage of the population.

The province has an annual average of 2 million tourists, mostly domestic. Although Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization lists 211 sites of historical and cultural significance in the province, the main tourist attraction in Gilan is the small town of Masouleh in the hills south-east of Rasht. The town is built not dissimilar to the pueblo settlements, with the roof of one house being the courtyard of the next house above.

Gilan has a strong culinary tradition, from which several dishes have come to be adopted across Iran. This richness derives in part from the climate, which allows for a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and nuts grown in the province. Seafood is a particularly strong component of Gilani (and Mazandarani) cuisine. Sturgeon, often smoked or served as kebab, and caviar are delicacies along the whole Caspian littoral. Other types of fish such as Mahi Sefid, Kuli, Kulmeh, Caspian Salmon, mahi Kapur and many others are consumed. Fish roe or ashpal is widely used in Gileki cuisine. Traditional Persian stews such as "ghalieh mahi" (fish stew) and "ghalieh maygu" (shrimp stew) are also featured and prepared in a uniquely Gilani fashion.

More specific to Gilan are a distinctive walnut-paste and pomegranate-juice sauce, used as a marinade for 'sour' kabab (Kabab Torsh) and as the basis of "fesenjun", a rich stew of duck, chicken or lamb. "Mirza ghasemi" is an aubergine and egg dish with a smoky taste that is often served as a side dish or appetizer. Other such dishes include pickled garlic, olives with walnut paste, and smoked fish. The caviar and smoked fish from the region are, in particular, widely prized and sought after specialities in both domestic and foreign gourmet markets. "See also Cuisine of Iran". Gilan is well and interesting for tourism.

Forefathers of Pakistani newly elected primeminister, Yousaf Raza Gillani migrated from the province of Gilan.

Colleges and universities

# University of Gilan []
# [ Islamic Azad University of Astara]
# Islamic Azad University of Bandar Anzali
# Islamic Azad University of Rasht
# Islamic Azad University of Lahijan
# Gilan University of Medical Sciences
# Institute of Higher Education for Academic Jihad of Rasht
# Technical & Vocational Training Organziation of Gilan

ee also

*Constitutionalist movement of Gilan
*Soviet Republic of Gilan
*Gill (clan)
*Rudkhan Castle

External links

* []
* [ Gilan] entry in the [ Encyclopædia Iranica]
* [ Gilan University of Medical Sciences Health Information Center]
* [ Gilan Cultural Heritage Organization] (An excellent source of info in Persian)
* [ Masouleh Village Official website]
* Shapour Bahrami, "Masouleh, Iran", Photo Set, [ flickr] .
* [ Gilan Province Office of Tourism]
* [ Gilan Province Department of Education] (in Persian)
* Two Gilani folk-songs sung by Shusha Guppy in the 1970s: [ "The Rain"] , [ "Darling Leila"] .

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