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 Rasht Today


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 Wars1804-1813 and 1826-28), resulting in an enormous gain of influence by the Russian Empire in the Caspian region. The Gilanian cities of Rashtand 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. The 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 the 16th century and until the mid 19th century, Gilan was the major exporter of silk in Asia. The Shah farmed out this trade to Greek and Armenian merchants, and in return would receive a handsome portion of the proceeds.
In the mid 19th century, a widespread fatal epidemic among the 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 the Qajars. Re-orientation of Gilan's agriculture and industry from silk to production of rice and the introduction of tea plantations were a partial answer to the 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-e Tonekaboni (Rashti) was a prominent figure in the early years of the revolution and was instrumental in defeating Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar.
In the late 1910s, many Gilakis gathered under the leadership of Mirza Kuchik Khan, who became the most prominent revolutionary leader in northern Iran in this period. Khan's movement, known as the Jangal movement of Gilan, 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.
The Jangalis are 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 until their final defeat in September 1921 when control of Gilan returned to Tehran.
Rasht is center of Gilan province and is the largest city along the Caspian Seacoast. It is a major trade center between Caucasia, Russia and Iran using the port of Bandar-e Anzali. Rasht is also a major tourist center with the resort of Masouleh in adjacent mountains and the beaches of Caspian as some of major attractions.
Historically, Rasht was a major transport and buisness centre which connected Iran to Russia and Europe, the city was therefore entitled as the "Gate of Europe". The city has a history that goes back to the 13th century but its modern history dates back to the Safavid era during which Rasht was a major centre of silk trade with numerous textile workshops. The name Rasht comes most plausibly from the verb 'reshtan', (weaving). Rasht has along regions around Tabriz and Teheran, one of the earliest industry plants during the last quarter of the 19th century, prominently in fields such as fishing industry, caviar production, the Caspian sea oil pipeline construction, textile industry. During the 20th century, until the mid 70's, Guilan and the Rasht region held the third ranking industrial cities in Iran, considering number of workers and per capital productivity.
The people of Rasht played a prominent role in instigation and radicalization of the Constitutional Revolution. Rasht is the birthplace of Mirza Kuchak Khan, one of the leading figures of the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1907). His own movement in Guilan, which went under the name of Jangaliha represented a pro-modern and social democratic programm for reformation of Muslim rituals and traditions. Mirza Kuchak khan established the short-lived Soviet Republic of Guilan in 1920 after the defeat of the constititutional forces and in coalition with Iranian communists. The republic had the support of the newly built Russian Red Army. The Soviet government, after a turn of military and political strategy, proposed by Trotsky, withdrew their support and the republic itself was tormented by the inner conflicts between the newly built Iranian Communist Party (1919) and the Jangalis and other factions. The republic was finally defeated by the Iranian army under the command of Reza Shah. Rasht has a subtropical climate.
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 and also Gilan has large Azeri speaking population in the cities like Anzali, Astara, Rasht, Masouleh. Northern part of province, has been inhabited by Talyshs. The Kurdish language is used by some Kurds that has moved from Khorasan to Amarlu region. Language of Rudbar is Tati. Gilanis call themselves gilamardwhich is a combination of 'Gil' and 'Amard.'
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, CaspianSalmon, 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.
Major academic centers of Gilan province include:

  • University of Gilan
  • Institute of Higher Education for Academic Jihad of Rasht
  • Gilan University of Medical Sciences
  • Technical & Vocational Training Organization of Gilan
  • Islamic Azad University of Rasht