1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tabriz

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415921911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 26 — TabrizAlbert Houtum-Schindler

TABRIZ, the capital of the province of Azerbaijan in Persia, situated in the valley of the Aji Chai, “Bitter River,” at an elevation of 4400 ft. in 38° 4′ N., 46° 18′ E. Based on a census taken in 1871 the population of Tabriz was in 1881 estimated at 165,000, and is now said to be about 200,000.

The popular etymology of the name Tabriz from tab=fever, rīz=pourer away (verb, rīkhtan=pour away, flow; German rieseln?), hence “fever-destroying,” is erroneous and was invented in modern times. It is related that Zobeideh, the wife of Harun-al-Rashid, founded the town in 791 after recovering there from fever, but the earlier chronicles give no support to this statement, and it is nowhere recorded that Zobeideh ever visited Azerbaijan, and the name Tabriz was known many centuries before her time. In 1842 Hammer-Purgstall correctly explained the name as meaning the “warm-flowing” (tab=warm, same root as tep in “tepid”) from some warm mineral springs in the neighbourhood, and compared it with the synonymous Teplitz in Bohemia. In old Armenian histories the name is Tavresh, which means the same. The popular pronunciation to and tau for tab has given rise to the spellings Toris and Tauris met with in older travellers and used even now.

Overlooking the valley on the N.E. and N. are bold bare rocks, while to the S. rises the majestic cone of Sahand (12,000 ft.). The town possesses few buildings of note, and of the extensive ruins few merit attention. The ark, or citadel, in the south-west extremity of the city, now used as an arsenal, is a noble building of burnt brick with mighty walls and a tower 120 ft. in height. Among the ruins of old Tabriz the sepulchre of the Mongol king, Ghazan Khan (1295–1304), in a quarter once known as Shanb (generally pronounced Sham and Shām) i Ghazan, is no longer to be distinguished except as part of a huge tumulus. The great Shanb (cupola or dome) and other buildings erected by Ghazan have also disappeared. They stood about 2 m. S.W. from the modern town, but far within the original boundaries. The “spacious arches of stone and other vestiges of departed majesty,” with which Ker Porter found it surrounded in 1818, were possibly remains of the college (medresseh) and monastery (zavīeh) where Ibn Batita found shelter during his visit to the locality. On the eastern side of the city stand the ruins of the Masjed i jehan Shah, commonly known as the Masjed i Kebud, or “Blue Mosque,” from the blue glazed tiles which cover its walls. It was built by Johan Shah of the Kara Kuyunli, or Black Sheep dynasty (1437–1467).[1] Tabriz is celebrated as one of the most healthy cities in Persia.

Tabriz was for a long period the emporium for the trade of Persia on the west, but since the opening of the railway through the Caucasus and greater facilities for transport on the Caspian, much of its trade with Russia has been diverted to Astara and Resht, while the insecurity on the Tabriz-Trebizond route since 1878 has diverted much commerce to the Bagdad road. According to consular reports the value of the exports and imports which passed through the Tabriz custom-house during the years 1867–73 averaged £593,800 and £1,226,660 (total for the year, £1,820,460); the averages for the six years 1893–9 were £212,880 and £544,530. There are reasons to believe that these values were considerably understated. For the year 1898–9 the present writer obtained figures directly from the books kept by the custom-house official at Tabriz, and although, as this official informed him, some important items had not been entered at all, the value of the exports and imports shown in the books exceeded that of the consular reports by about 10 per cent. Since that time the customs of Azerbaijan have been taken over by the central customs department under Belgian officials, and it is stated that the trade has not decreased. British, Russian, French, Turkish and Austrian consulates and a few European commercial firms are established at Tabriz; there are also post and telegraph offices. Tabriz has suffered much from earthquakes, notably in 858, 1042 and 1721, each time with almost complete destruction of the city.  (A. H.-S.) 

  1. This mosque is popularly attributed to Ghazan Khan (end of 13th century).