1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Azerbāïjān

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AZERBĀÏJĀN (also spelt Aderbijan; the Azerbādegān of medieval writers, the Athropatakan and Atropatene of the ancients), the north-western and most important province of Persia. It is separated from Russian territory on the N. by the river Aras (Araxes), while it has the Caspian Sea, Gilan and Khamseh (Zenjān) on the E., Kurdistan on the S., and Asiatic Turkey on the W. Its area is estimated at 32,000 sq. m.; its population at 1½ to 2 millions, comprising various races, as Persians proper, Turks, Kurds, Syrians, Armenians, &c. The country is superior in fertility to most provinces of Persia, and consists of a regular succession of undulating eminences, partially cultivated and opening into extensive plains. Near the centre of the province the mountains of Sahand rise in an accumulated mass to the height of 12,000 ft. above the sea. The highest mountain of the province is in its eastern part, Mount Savelan, with an elevation of 15,792 ft., and the Talish Mountains, which run from north to south, parallel to and at no great distance from the Caspian, have an altitude of 9000 ft. The principal rivers are the Aras and Kizil Uzain, both receiving numerous tributaries and flowing into the Caspian, and the Jaghatu, Tatava, Murdi, Aji and others, which drain into the Urmia lake. The country to the west of the lake, with the districts of Selmas and Urmia, is the most prosperous part of Azerbāïjān, yet even here the intelligent traveller laments the want of enterprise among the inhabitants. Azerbāïjān is one of the most productive provinces of Persia. The orchards and gardens in which many villages are embosomed yield delicious fruits of almost every description, and great quantities, dried, are exported, principally to Russia. Provisions are cheap and abundant, but there is a lack of forests and timber trees. Lead, copper, sulphur, orpiment, also lignite, have been found within the confines of the province; also a kind of beautiful, variegated, translucent marble, which takes a high polish, is used in the construction of palatial buildings, tanks, baths, &c., and is known as Maragha, or Tabriz marble. The climate is healthy, not hot in summer, and cold in winter. The cold sometimes is severely felt by the poor classes owing to want of proper fuel, for which a great part of the population has no substitute except dried cow-dung. Snow lies on the mountains for about eight months in the year, and water is everywhere abundant. The best soils when abundantly irrigated yield from 50- to 60-fold, and the water for this purpose is supplied by the innumerable streams which intersect the province. The natives of Azerbāïjān make excellent soldiers, and about a third of the Persian army is composed of them. The province is divided into a number of administrative sub-provinces or districts, each with a hākim, governor or sub-governor, under the governor-general, who under the Kajār dynasty has always been the heir-apparent to the throne of Persia, assisted by a responsible minister appointed by the shah. The administrative divisions are as follows:—Tabriz and environs; Uskuh; Deh-Kharegan; Maragha; Miandoab; Saūjbulagh; Sulduz; Urmia; Selmas; Khoi; Maku; Gerger; Merend; Karadagh; Arvanek; Talish; Ardebil; Mishkin; Khalkhāl; Hashtrud; Garmrud; Afshar; Sain Kaleh; Ujan; Sarab. The revenue amounts to about £200,000 per annum in cash and kind, and nearly all of it is expended in the province for the maintenance of the court of the heir-apparent, the salaries and pay to government officials, troops, pensions, &c. (A. H.-S.)