The northern provinces of Iran are located along the Caspian Sea. Provinces that live in the shadow of rainforests and foothills. An unrivaled nature covers it beautifully but its history always shines through. We want to go to one of these provinces, which, with his name, cries of liberation and freedom from Mirza Kuchak Khan Jangali, resonates in our minds and hearts. The local colorful clothes of the people will be a spectacular sight to see plus the smell of grilled fish which is a trademark for this particular region.
Today, Gilan is our destination, a place that has a strange combination of history and nature and culture. A region that looks like a rainbow with seven-color sights. If you feel down a bit you can go to the forests or get to the sky at its heights and peaks. The desire to hear the music of the sea waves will take you to the coast of the Caspian Sea.
If you have the cravings of walking in the streets of the village or at the heart of history, you can simply go to Gilan and enjoy it. This time, we will introduce the province and will head to every corner of it in the future and we will depict all the spectacular scenery later on.
Getting to know Gilan
The center of this province is Rasht city. Gilan is the 10th most populated province of Iran. The province of Gilan covers 14, 044 km of land and it is considered as the 28th largest province in Iran. It is a province, with a population density of 177 people per km and in terms of that, it’s third in Iran. Rasht city as the center of this province, with 46% of the total population of Gilan, is considered to be the 12th most populous city in Iran and the most populous city in three provinces of Iran on the Caspian coast. Bandar Anzali, the most important Iranian port on the border of the Caspian Sea, is located in this province. Lahijan, Talesh, Langrood, Rudsar, Bandar Astara, Fouman are among the most important cities of Guilan province.
The Caspian Hyrcanian Mixed Forests ecoregion exists in low-lying areas of the Caspian Sea coast, and the entire Gilan province is located in this humid and green area. The wind currents get wet over on the sea and have to climb due to collision with Alborz Mountain, so they unload on the plains and mountains of the northwest of the mountain range. The average annual rainfall varies from 1200 to 1800 mm along the coastline and decreases in the southwest corner of the plain, and in the lower parts of the mountains, the amount increases to 1800-1500 mm. Over Sefīd-Rūd valley, with a severe northern wind blowing from Manjil we witness a Mediterranean pseudo-like region such as Rudbar and Manjil.
Spring: During early spring, the air still has signs of a cold winter and there are the occasional rains. From late April, precipitation decreases and humidity increases.
Summer: The humidity of the air is at its maximum and the sultry weather dominates over the area.
Autumn: The precipitation during autumn is very high and the rainfall peaks.
Winter: precipitation in the winter continues in the form of snow and a sharp drop in temperature occurs.
Before Christ was born tribes such as Caspian, Cadusii and Amardi were stationed along the Caspian Sea. It is likely that the Gils, or the warriors of Gil, arrived in Iran in the first or second century BC, and settled alongside the Daylamites on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea and the western Sefīd-Rūd. Among them was a common dialect that other Persian speakers could not decipher.
Until the 7th century, today’s Gilan, like other parts of Iran, was a region ruled by Achaemenes, Seljukian, Parthians and Sassanids, but governed by local rulers. With the conquest of Iran by Arabs, there were many local dynasties formed in Gilan.
Gilan had two parts from the distant past until several centuries ago:
Bieh-Pass: The western part of Gilan and the right side of Sefīd-Rūd.
Bieh-Pish: The eastern part of Gilan and the right side of Sefīd-Rūd.
The word “Bieh” means the river or coast, so “Bieh-Pass” means behind the river which is Sefīd-Rūd, on the other hand, “Bieh-Pish” refers to the land that was in front of the river.
In the course of the invasion of the Arabs, the Daylamites showed severe resistance and did not surrender. The first Muslims who were able to enter this area were the Alawites who stepped into the region during the second century AD in opposition to the Abbasid caliphs. With the arrival of the Alawites, the Daylamites began to accept Islam but remained politically pseudo-independent.
Different dynasties, including the Ziyarids, the Buyids, and later on the Seljuqs, made quite an effort to dominate Gilan, but they never succeeded. Gilan was the only area that the Mongols could not take over so they never occupied this particular territory.
In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Gilan’s administration was run by members of two local families, until around 1367, an Alawite leader, Ali Kia bin Amir-Kiaye Malati, controlled the Bieh-Pish area along with Lahijan. He and his companions settled in Lahijan until the early Safavid times.
The Sunni family, Shafi’i Es-high-Vandi, came to power from the second half of the 13th century in the Bieh-Pass area alongside with Forman. At first, this rise of power began from Fouman, but gradually it captured western Gilan.
Both Sunnis and Shiites were destroyed by Shah Abbas Safavid, and Gilan was considered as the king’s personal property. The governor was also appointed by the central government.
With the extinction of the Safavids in 1722, the northern borders of Iran became vulnerable to the invasion of foreigners. Nader Shah Afshar, Karim Khan Zand, and Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar were three powerful local leaders who emerged in these riots. During this period, a number of governors were considered by Nader Shah, Karim Khan and Agha Muhammad Khan for Gilan, but they did not last in the job for a long time.
After Nader Shah’s death, Agha Jamal Fumani, along with Agha Safi, defeated the central government in Gilan and dominated the whole of Guilan through Rasht. With the death of Agha Jamal in 1753, Agha Hadi, with the help of Mirza Zaki, ruled over Gilan for four months and eventually they were executed by the Qajar leaders.
Hedayatullah, Agha Jamal’s youngest son, became the ruler of Rasht, but after the arrival of Karam Khan, he was sent to Tehran and the position was filled by another person. Hedayatullah fled from Karim Khan when he got the chance, and ruled over Gilan once again and was officially appointed as governor of Gilan in 1767. During the rule of Hedayatullah, using foreign trade, Gilan saw a large number of Armenians, Russians, Jews and Indians in the province and shortly after it became one of the fastest developing provinces in Iran with an annual income of about 200,000 pounds.
Until the arrival of Agha Muhammad Khan in power in the 1770s, Hedayatullah Khan preserved the status of quasi-independence in Guilan. Hedayatullah Khan’s interest in maintaining this independence was such that he demanded support from the Russians for resistance against the emerging Qajar sovereignty but they refused.
Mostafa Khan Dolu defeated Hedayatullah Khan in Rasht with 6,000 soldiers from. Agha Ali, the only survivor of the family of Aqua Rafi Shafti, who was killed by Hedayatullah, was assassinated with the help of Russians.
The colonial interests of Russia and Britain and the major political and economic changes that arose in Iran caused Gilan to experience a lot of changes in relations with Russia. Increased foreign trade and maritime transport, and its effect on the import and export of welfare in this region are such examples. Also, the increase of people going to Europe from Anzali-Baku route was carried out as a result of a communication link between Tehran and Anzali through Qazvin and Rasht.
Again, two states emerged prematurely, but in the second half of the century, with the expansion of foreign trade and the rapid development of maritime transport, and the increase of passenger and freight on the Tehran-Anzali route, the separation between the two states was eliminated and made it an emerging world economy and central power. Gilan was one of the four wealthy provinces of Iran at that time and earned significant but inconsistent income.
In 1909, after bombing the National Consultative Assembly, the Gilani Constitutional Revolutionary Guards came to Tehran, and after conquering it along with the Bakhtiari nomads, they established the constitutional system.
With the outbreak of World War I and the turmoil in the country, Gilan landlords plundered the property of the people. Mirza Kuchak Khan set up an uprising in the region, and Russian-British-backed government forces fought against them.
After the formation of the October Revolution in Russia, the Russians made friendly relations with the forest guerilla forces as a result of the weakness of the revolution and stopped fighting with them. The guerilla forces fixed their eyes on Gilan, and by the end of that year, all government officials had been driven out from Gilan to Tehran.
The exemptions from taxes, water supply and agricultural improvements for farmers in Gilan had a positive result. The people of Gilan also had the most productive during the famine and sent rice to Baku and Tehran.
In 1920, the first and the only Socialist Republic of Iran was established as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Iran, and in early July 1299, the first congress of the Communist Party of Iran was held in Anzali. Eventually, the government fell under the attack of the central government.
Some scholars believe that a tribe called Gelay lived in this land, then the name changed to Gil and an “an” was added to the name, therefore making Gilan. The word “an” means land, and the word “Gilan” means the land of the Gills.
Others suggest that the name “Gilan” comes from the word mud which in Farsi is equivalent to “Gel”, plus the usual “an”, therefore meaning marshy and muddy land. Alexander wrote in his autobiography:
The name of this state, whose inhabitants sometimes call it Gil, and sometimes Gilan, and sometimes Gilanat, are in fact representatives of swampy land. In fact, in this part of the Caspian Sea, the earth is lower than in other areas. The vast number of floods that originate from the slum in the Caspian Mountains have liquefied this land with the help of a tiny slope that prevents rapid drainage of water, and its weather is constantly saturated with moisture.
Earlier historians, such as the author of Bostan al-Sayyah, believe that the name of Gilan has come from Jilan, and they say that the building of this land was carried out by Jill Bin Masal from the descendants of Noah.
In the book, the lands of the Eastern Caliphate, Lestrange says about Jilan:
Delta sedimentary grounds were specifically named by Arab geographers as Jail or Jilan, and when they wanted to call the entire state of Gilan, they called collectively as Jilanat or Gilanat.
Gilan region was called before Islam by the name of Deylam and Daylamites, and at the same time as Al Boyah’s rose to power in the fourth century, the whole region of Gilan was considered to be part of the Deylam state and henceforth they used the name Daylamites, but with the separation of the regions, the name was forgotten. Nowadays, only the center of Dilam village, Siahkel district of Lahijan and the other part of the same section, called Daylamites, continue to exist. To learn more about Daylamites, read “Daylamites, A Yaylak in Gilan Highlands”.
In the era of the Arab invasion, due to the fact that the boundaries of the Muslims advance ended at this point, the name Dar-Al-Marz was chosen.
In Dehkhoda dictionary, the word ‘Gilan’ is derived from ‘Gil’ which represents the locals plus ‘N’ which means land, therefore the land of the Gills. The dictionary also refers to the fact that the word in Pahlavi language was “Gelan” and in Greek, it was “Gelae”.
Gilan Province includes the lush green areas of the northwest of Alborz Mountains and the western part of the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The western end of the Alborz mountain range and the western part of the Caspian margin are in Gilan. In the northwest, Talesh heights cause the separation of Gilan from Azerbaijan.
At the northern end of Heyran Valley which is located at the end of Astara Chay Valley, the maximum altitude is 1600 meters while the altitude of all those regions except the ones mentioned is above 2000 meters and Mount Samam or Samamos with a height of 3689 meters is the highest point in Gilan. High seismicity proves that the mountains are active and that it causes earthquakes in the region.
Gilan province is limited from the north to the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan, west to Ardabil province, south to Zanjan province and Qazvin, and east to Mazandaran province.