Rasht (Persian: رشت‎‎ Rašt; Gilaki: Rəsht; also Romanized as Resht and Rast, and often spelt Recht in French and older German manuscripts)[1] is the capital city of Gilan Province, Iran. As of the 24 October 2011 census, its population was 639,951.[2]

Rasht is the largest city on Iran’s Caspian Sea coast. 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 the adjacent mountains and the beaches of Caspian as some of the major attractions.

Historically, Rasht was a major transport and business center which connected Iran to Russia and Europe, and because of this was known 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 silk trade center with numerous textile workshops.

History

Main article: History of Gilan

Iran Forests, Gilan

In antiquity, this area was a province of Persia known as Daylam (sometimes Daylaman, Dailam or Delam). The Daylam region corresponds to the modern region of Gīlān.[11]

Early history

See also: Caspians

It seems that the Gelae (Gilites) entered the region south of the Caspian coast and west of the Amardos River (later Safidrud) in the second or first century B.C.E. Pliny identifies them with the Cadusii who were living there previously. It is more likely that they were a separate people, had come from the region of Dagestan, and taken the place of the Kadusii. The fact that the native inhabitants of Gilan have originating roots in the Caucasus is supported by genetics and language, as Gilaks are genetically closer to ethnic peoples of the Caucasus (such as the Georgians) than they are towards other ethnic groups in Iran.[12] Their languages shares certain typologic features with Caucasian languages.[13]

Medieval history

It was the place of origin of the Buyid dynasty. The people of the province had a prominent position during the Sassanid dynasty, so that their political power extended to Mesopotamia.

The first recorded encounter between Gilanis and Deylamite warlords and invading Muslim Arab armies was at the Battle of Jalula in 637 AD. Deylamite commander Muta led an army of Gils, Deylamites, Persians and people of the Rey region. Muta was killed in the battle, and his defeated army managed to retreat in an orderly manner.

However, this appears to have been a Pyrrhic victory for the Arabs, since they did not pursue their opponents. Unlike the Russians, Muslim Arabs never managed to conquer Gilan as they did with other provinces in Iran. Gilanis and Deylamites successfully repulsed all Arab attempts to occupy their land or to convert them to Islam. In fact, it was the Deylamites under the Buyid king Mu’izz al-Dawla who finally shifted the balance of power by conquering Baghdad in 945. Mu’izz al-Dawla, however, allowed the Abbasid caliphs to remain in comfortable, secluded captivity in their palaces.[14]

In the 9th and 10th centuries AD, Deylamites and later Gilanis gradually converted to Zaidite Shi’ism. Several Deylamite commanders and soldiers of fortune who were active in the military theaters of Iran and Mesopotamia were openly Zoroastrian (for example, Asfar Shiruyeh a warlord in central Iran, and Makan, son of Kaki, the warlord of Rey) or were suspected of harboring pro-Zoroastrian (for example Mardavij) sentiments. Muslim chronicles of Varangian (Rus, pre-Russian Norsemen) invasions of the littoral Caspian region in the 9th century record Deylamites as non-Muslim. These chronicles also show that the Deylamites were the only warriors in the Caspian region who could fight the fearsome Varangian vikings as equals. Deylamite infantrymen had a role very similar to the Swiss Reisläufer of the Late Middle Ages in Europe. Deylamite mercenaries served as far away as Egypt, Islamic Spain, and in the Khazar Kingdom.

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

In the 9th-11th century AD, there were repetitively military raids undertaken by the Rus’ between 864 and 1041 on the Caspian Sea shores of Iran, Azerbaijan, and Dagestan as part of the Caspian expeditions of the Rus’.[15] Initially, the Rus’ appeared in Serkland in the 9th century traveling as merchants along the Volga trade route, selling furs, honey, and slaves. The first small-scale raids took place in the late 9th and early 10th century. The Rus’ undertook the first large-scale expedition in 913; having arrived on 500 ships, they pillaged the westernmost parts of Gorgan as well as Gilan and Mazandaran, taking slaves and goods.

The Turkish invasions of the 10th and 11th centuries CE, which saw the rise of Ghaznavid and Seljuq dynasties, put an end to Deylamite states in Iran. From the 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.

In 1307 the Ilkhan Öljeitü conquered the region after witnessing a Pyrrhic victory.[16] This was the first time the region came under the rule of the Mongols after the Ilkhanid Mongols and their Georgian allies failed to do it in the late 1270s.[17] After 1336, the region seems to be independent again.

Before the introduction of silk production (date unknown, but definitely a pillar of the economy by the 15th century AD), 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 on its own to support its population. This changed with the introduction of the silk worm in the late Middle Ages.

Early modern and modern history

Gilan recognized twice, for brief periods, the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire without rendering tribute to the Sublime Porte, in 1534 and 1591.[18]

The Safavid emperor, Shah Abbas I ended the rule of Khan Ahmad Khan (the last semi-independent ruler of Gilan) and annexed the province directly to his empire. From this point onward, rulers of Gilan were appointed by the Persian Shah. In the Safavid era, Gilan was settled by large numbers of Georgians, Circassians, Armenians, and other peoples of the Caucasus whose descendants still live or linger across Gilan. Most of these Georgians and Circassians are assimilated into the mainstream Gilaks. The history of Georgian settlement is described by Iskandar Beg Munshi, the author of the 17th century Tarikh-e Alam-Ara-ye Abbasi, and the Circassian settlements by Pietro Della Valle, among other authors.[19]

The Safavid empire became weak towards the end of the 17th century CE. By the early 18th century, the once-mighty empire was in the grips of civil war and uprisings. The ambitious Peter I of Russia (Peter the Great) sent an force that captured Gilan and many of the Iranian territories in the North Caucasus, Transcaucasia, as well as other territories in northern mainland Iran, through the Russo-Persian War (1722-1723) and the resulting Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1723).[20] Gilan and its capital of Rasht, which was conquered between late 1722 and late March 1723, stayed in Russian possession for about ten years.[21]

Qajars established a central government in Persia (Iran) in the late 18th century CE. They lost a series of wars to Russia (Russo-Persian Wars 1804-1813 and 1826–28), resulting in an enormous gain of influence by the Russian Empire in the Caspian region, which would last up to 1946. The Gilanian cities of Rasht and Anzali were all but occupied and settled by Russians and Russian forces. Most major cities in the region had Russian schools and significant traces of Russian culture can still be found today in Rasht. Russian class was mandatory in schools and the significant increase of Russian influence in the region lasted until 1946 and had a major impact on Iranian history, as it directly led to the Persian Constitutional Revolution.

Gilan was a major producer of silk beginning in the 15th century CE. As a result, it was one of the wealthiest provinces in Iran. Safavid annexation in the 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, received a handsome portion of the proceeds.

In the mid-19th century, a 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. Before 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 Gilanis 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 that 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.

During and several years after the Bolshevik Revolution, the region saw another massive influx of Russian settlers (the so-called White émigrées). Many of the descendants of these refugees are in the region. During the same period, Anzali served as the main trading port between Iran and Europe.

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, 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 Russo-Persian Treaty of Friendship (1921) 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.

Timeline

  • 682: Rasht was first mentioned in historical documents.
  • 1669: Stenka Razin, a Cossack warlord, plundered the city.
  • 1714: Rasht destroyed by earthquake.
  • 1722–1732: Occupation by the Russians due to the Russo-Persian War.
  • 1901: A major epidemic plague devastates the city.
  • 1917–1920: The Russian and British armed forces fight in the port city of Bandar-e Anzali and Rasht. The British retreat and the Russians occupy the area.
  • 1920–1921: The short-lived Persian Soviet Socialist Republic was established with its capital in Rasht.
  • 1937: A revolt, sparked by the desire to collect a “road tax” from the Russians, was suppressed.
  • 1974: First university established in Rasht.

An old mosque in Rasht, 1886.

Rasht was first mentioned in historical documents in 682 CE, but it is certainly older than this. It has seen the Sassanid era, the armies of Peter the Great and later Russian rulers, and British colonialism. The people of Rasht also played a major role in the Constitutional Revolution of Iran.

The name Rasht comes most plausibly from the verb reshtan, weaving. Rasht has, along with regions around Tabriz and Tehran, one of the earliest industry plants during the last quarter of the 19th century, prominently in fields such as fishing, caviar production, the Caspian sea oil pipeline construction and textiles. During the 20th century, until the mid-70s, Gilan and the Rasht region was the third-ranking industrial city in Iran by number of workers and per capital productivity. It lost its cultural and industrial status to a large extent after the 1970s.

The people of Rasht played a prominent role in instigation and radicalization of the Persian Constitutional Revolution (1905–1907). Rasht is the birthplace of Mīrzā Kūchak Khān, one of the leading figures of the Constitutional Revolution. His own movement in Gilan, which went by the name of Jangalis, represented a pro-modern and social democratic program for reformation of Muslim rituals and traditions. Mirza established the short-lived Persian Socialist Soviet Republic in 1920 after the defeat of the constitutional forces and in coalition with Iranian communists. The republic had the support of the newly established Russian Red Army. The Soviet Government, after a turn of military and political strategy proposed by Trotsky, withdrew its support and the republic itself was tormented by the inner conflicts between the newly established 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.

The first national library of Iran was established in Rasht under the Qajar dynasty. Furthermore, Nasim e Shomal as the first modern newspaper of Iran after the constitutional revolution has been published in Rasht, but later moved its headquarters to Qazvin. First Public Library of Iran was built in Rasht City.[3] First Branch of the First Iranian Bank (Sepah Bank) was located in Rasht City.[4] First branch of 24/7 pharmacy (Karoon pharmacy) was built in Rasht City. First school for girls and first fire station in Iran were also built in Rasht City.

Modern day

Municipality of Rasht.jpg

Rasht is growingly turning into an industrialized town like most of the Iranian large cities and province capitals. Enjoying the Kadus International Hotel and hundreds of tourist attractions, Rasht receives thousands of foreign tourists annually, mostly from Austria, Germany, Netherlands, France, Australia, Japan and African countries like Senegal and Cameroon as well as countries from Oceania like Micronesia. Rasht is known for its famous building of municipality located in a square called the Square of Municipality which was constructed circa 1900 but being renovated each year. Due to the high amount of humidity in Rasht which damages and destroys the aged buildings, the native, older architectural texture of Rasht is gradually being replaced with the modern skyscrapers and apartments.

Panorama of boosar neighberhood in Rasht.tif

The culture of consumerism is prevalent among the people of Rasht as a cultural and urban center which is historically engaged in close commercial and political ties with the United Kingdom, Russia and France. Due to this background which makes the inhabitants much familiar with the industrial, cultural and political developments of the west, the finance and credit institutions are more willing to open representative offices and bureaus in Rasht and it has made the city a center of various banks and financial organizations. There are many commercial centers, malls and financial institutions in Rasht including one branch of the Exports Development Bank of Iran which is an international bank dealing with the Iranian exports. The organizers and directors of national Iranian or non-Iranian banks afford to spend considerable amounts of budgets to construct attractive and modern buildings for their offices in Rasht.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, there have always been requests on behalf of Russian, Turkish and Azeri banks to open branches in Rasht and that is why the city is endowed as the “gate of Europe” in Iran. The head consulate of the Russian Federation government is located in Rasht and some of the other Caspian region countries are also keen to establish representative headquarters in Rasht alongside their embassies in Tehran. Some evidences are the University of Gilan which was constructed jointly by the governments of Iran and West Germany about 40 years ago, the building of IRIB representatives in Rasht which was constructed jointly by the Iranian and Belgian engineers.

Bigler Beigi Pavilion (Qajar dynasty)

Mohtasham Park in Rasht City

Rasht municipality

Climate

Rasht has a humid subtropical climate[3] that is one of the wettest in Iran. It has certain Mediterranean features such as a drier summer, but is also relatively continental with cooler winters and higher seasonal temperature variation than in much of Iran, in spite of its marine position. The average humidity is 81.2%, contrasting heavily with cities in many other parts of Iran. Sunshine hours, averaging roughly 1,520 per year, are lower than in most places in Iran and also compared to most places at this latitude.

[hide]Climate data for Rasht
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 30
(86)
31
(88)
34.6
(94.3)
37
(99)
37.6
(99.7)
37
(99)
37
(99)
37.2
(99)
40
(104)
37.4
(99.3)
36
(97)
32
(90)
40
(104)
Average high °C (°F) 10.8
(51.4)
10.9
(51.6)
13.1
(55.6)
19.0
(66.2)
24.2
(75.6)
28.3
(82.9)
30.5
(86.9)
29.9
(85.8)
26.8
(80.2)
21.7
(71.1)
17.7
(63.9)
13.6
(56.5)
20.54
(68.97)
Average low °C (°F) 1.9
(35.4)
2.5
(36.5)
5.1
(41.2)
9.3
(48.7)
14.2
(57.6)
18.0
(64.4)
20.2
(68.4)
19.8
(67.6)
17.2
(63)
12.8
(55)
8.3
(46.9)
4.2
(39.6)
11.13
(52.03)
Record low °C (°F) −19
(−2)
−18
(0)
−6.4
(20.5)
−2
(28)
3.6
(38.5)
5
(41)
11
(52)
9
(48)
7
(45)
1
(34)
−4
(25)
−10
(14)
−19
(−2)
Average rainfall mm (inches) 147.9
(5.823)
119.2
(4.693)
111.3
(4.382)
61.6
(2.425)
53.3
(2.098)
38.7
(1.524)
40.2
(1.583)
73.8
(2.906)
142.6
(5.614)
130.2
(5.126)
170.7
(6.72)
166.0
(6.535)
1,255.5
(49.429)
Average rainy days 11.7 10.7 12.0 8.6 7.7 4.3 3.7 6.8 9.5 12.3 10.7 11.4 109.4
Average relative humidity (%) 84 85 84 80 78 74 74 77 82 86 85 85 81.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 89.9 79.1 71.3 114.0 161.2 204.0 210.8 167.4 138.0 108.5 93.0 86.8 1,524
Source #1: World Climate [4]
Source #2: Shahrekord Meteorology Database [5]

Demography

Language

The people of Rasht speak Gileki as their mother tongue and Persian language as of the official language of Iran. Gileki is spoken by more than 3 million people. The vast majority of Gileki speakers live in the Gilan Province of Iran. It belongs to the northwestern branch of the Iranian languages. The Iranian languages form a top-level constituent of the Indo-European language family. Gileki is closely related to Mazanderani and is subdivided into two main dialects: Bie-pas and Bie-pish. Bie-pas dialect is mainly spoken in west of Sepidroud including Rasht and Fuman while Bie-pish dialect belongs to eastern part of Gilan including Lahijan and Langrud.

In some rural areas near the Rasht, school teachers give their courses in Gileki rather than Persian.

Culture

Rashti people are said to spend much on books, clothes and food. They spend the leisure times going to cinemas, art exhibitions, music concerts and international book fairs that are being held in the city most of times in a year. Also the municipality kicks off sports, cultural or IT-related competitions to involve the youth in healthy and constructive activities. The most beloved competition is the annual blogging competition which awards the top young bloggers each year.

Cuisine

The dominant cuisine of Rasht people is the various types of fish. Mirza-Qasemi, Vavishka (a type of Haggis), Nargesi, Baqala Qatoq and Ashpal are some other popular local dishes of this city. Between the local cookies of Rasht, Reshte Xoshkar is a well-known one. Zeitoun Parvarde is a kind of delicacies prepared from olive and it is a popular seasoning in Rasht City.

Sports

The people of Rasht have always been regular fans of football which is the beloved sport in the city. Most are fans of Damash Gilan who play in the Azadegan League or Sepidrood Rasht who play in the 2nd Division. Damash Gilan is the newer version of former Pegah football club that belonged to the municipality of Rasht, but was purchased later by the mineral water factory of Damash and changed its name and properties to Damash Gilan. The home stadium of Damash Gilan is Dr. Azodi Stadium which is an old stadium dating back to almost 40 years ago and its capacity is 11,000 people. Sardar Jangal Stadium is the cities second stadium.

Sardar Jangal Stadium of Rasht

Following football, wrestling, judo and weightlifting are the most popular sports of youth in Rasht and that is due to the enchanting appearance of Iranian wrestlers and weightlifters in the international competitions like Olympics. The outstanding figure of world weightlifting and the two-time olympics Gold medal winner Hossein Rezazadeh is a main inspirer of Rasht youth to try Weightlifting as their professional job. Asghar Ebrahimi who was the squad captain of Iranian weightlifting team at the 2008 Olympics is from Rasht and a successful example of those youth from Rasht who tried this national field of sport after Hossein Rezazadeh.

Colleges and universities

  1. University of Gilan
  2. Gilan university of medical sciences
  3. Islamic Azad University of Rasht
  4. Jaber ebn Hayyan Institute of Higher Education
  5. Payame Noor University
  6. Institute of Higher Education for Academic Jihad of Rasht
  7. Guilan Technical & Vocational Training Organization
  8. Gilan Advanced Skills Training Center
  9. Rasht Technical and Vocational Institute
  10. Guilan University of Applied and Scientific Technology

Transportation

Railway

Rasht is served by Rasht railway station.

International airport

The Rasht International airport is the only airport in the small province of Gilan and was established in 1969 with an approximate area of 220 hectares. At first, the airport just handled domestic flights to Tehran and Mashhad, but after it was renamed to Sardar Jangal International airport in 2007, additional routes were established.

The airport is in close affiliation with hundreds of flights by national and international airlines, including Mahan Air, Iran Air, Iran Aseman Airlines, Kish Air and receives more than 2000 flights annually.