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
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