1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gīlān

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GĪLĀN (Ghilan, Guilan), one of the three small but important Caspian provinces of Persia, lying along the south-western shore of the Caspian Sea between 48° 50′ and 50° 30′ E. with a breadth varying from 15 to 50 m. It has an area of about 5000 sq. m. and a population of about 250,000. It is separated from Russia by the little river Astara, which flows into the Caspian, and bounded W. by Azerbāïjān, S. by Kazvin and E. by Mazandaran. The greater portion of the province is a lowland region extending inland from the sea to the base of the mountains of the Elburz range and, though the Sefīd Rūd (White river), which is called Kizil Uzain in its upper course and has its principal sources in the hills of Persian Kurdistan, is the only river of any size, the province is abundantly watered by many streams and an exceptionally great rainfall (in some years 50 in.).

The vegetation is very much like that of southern Europe, but in consequence of the great humidity and the mild climate almost tropically luxuriant, and the forests from the shore of the sea up to an altitude of nearly 5000 ft. on the mountain slopes facing the sea are as dense as an Indian jungle. The prevailing types of trees are the oak, maple, hornbeam, beech, ash and elm. The box tree comes to rare perfection, but in consequence of indiscriminate cutting for export during many years, is now becoming scarce. Of fruit trees the apple, pear, plum, cherry, medlar, pomegranate, fig, quince, as well as two kinds of vine, grow wild; oranges, sweet and bitter, and other Aurantiaceae thrive well in gardens and plantations. The fauna also is well represented, but tigers which once were frequently seen are now very scarce; panther, hyena, jackal, wild boar, deer (Cervus maral) are common; pheasant, woodcock, ducks, teal, geese and various waterfowl abound; the fisheries are very productive and are leased to a Russian firm. The ordinary cattle of the province is the small humped kind, Bos indicus, and forms an article of export to Russia, the humps, smoked, being much in demand as a delicacy. Rice of a kind not much appreciated in Persia, but much esteemed in Gīlān and Russia, is largely cultivated and a quantity valued at about £120,000 was exported to Russia during 1904–1905. Tea plantations, with seeds and plants from Assam, Ceylon and the Himalayas, were started in the early part of 1900 on the slopes of the hills south of Resht at an altitude of about 1000 ft. The results were excellent and very good tea was produced in 1904 and 1905, but the Persian government gave no support and the enterprise was neglected. The olive thrives well at Rúdbár and Manjíl in the Sefíd Rúd valley and the oil extracted from it by a Provençal for some years until 1896, when he was murdered, was of very good quality and found a ready market at Baku. Since then the oil has been, as before, only used for the manufacture of soap. Tobacco from Turkish seed, cultivated since 1875, grows well, and a considerable quantity of it is exported. The most valuable produce of the province is silk. In 1866 it was valued at £743,000 and about two-thirds of it was exported. The silkworm disease appeared in 1864 and the crops decreased in consequence until 1893 when the value of the silk exported was no more than £6500. Since then there has been a steady improvement, and in 1905–1906 the value of the produce was estimated at £300,000 and that of the quantity exported at £200,000. The eggs of the silk-worms, formerly obtained from Japan, are now imported principally from Brusa by Greeks under French protection and from France.

There is only one good road in the province, that from Enzeli to Kazvin by way of Resht; in other parts communication is by narrow and frequently impassable lanes through the thick forest, or by intricate pathways through the dense undergrowth.

The province is divided into the following administrative districts: Resht (with the capital and its immediate neighbourhood), Fumen (with Tulam and Mesula, where are iron mines), Gesker, Talish (with Shandarman, Kerganrud, Asalim, Gil-Dulab, Talish-Dulab), Enzeli (the port of Resht), Sheft, Manjíl (with Rahmetabad and Amarlu), Lahijan (with Langarud, Rúdsar and Ranehkuh), Dilman and Lashtnisha. The revenue derived from taxes and customs is about £80,000. The crown lands have been much neglected and the revenue from them amounts to hardly £3000 per annum. The value of the exports and imports from and into Gīlān, much of them in transit, is close upon £2,000,000.

Gīlān was an independent khanate until 1567 when Khan Ahmed, the last of the Kargia dynasty, which had reigned 205 years, was deposed by Tahmasp I., the second Safawid shah of Persia (1524–1576). It was occupied by a Russian force in the early part of 1723; and Tahmasp III., the tenth Safawid shah (1722–1731), then without a throne and his country occupied by the Afghans, ceded it, together with Mazandaran and Astarabad, to Peter the Great by a treaty of the 12th of September of the same year. Russian troops remained in Gīlān until 1734, when they were compelled to evacuate it.

The derivation of the name Gīlān from the modern Persian word gil meaning mud (hence “land of mud”) is incorrect. It probably means “land of the Gīl,” an ancient tribe which classical writers mention as the Gelae. (A. H.-S.)