Iran: ethnic map (479K!!)South Azerbaijan comprises three provinces which are part of the Islamic Republic of Iran: Eastern Azerbaijan, with its capital in Tabriz, Western Azerbaijan, with its capital in Uromiyeh,  and Ardebil, whose capital is also called Ardebil. A forth Iranian province Zanjan, with the capital in the city of the same name, also has a dominant Azeri population and there are important Azeri communities in and around Hamadan, in Tehran, around Qom and Saveh, in the Khorasan province, and are scattered throughout many other parts of Iran.

Azeri provinces in Iran - South AzerbaijanTabriz is built at an altitude of 1,400 meters in a valley to the north of the beautiful Mount Sahand (3,707). The valley opens out into a plain that slopes down gently to the northern end of Lake Orumieh, about 60 km to the west. With a population of 1.2 million, Tabriz is Iran's fourth largest city and second trade and industry centre. The opening of an Azeri consulate has been agreed between the Iranian and Azeri governments.

Tabriz - East Azerbaijan, Iran: cable-stayed bridge - photo by N.MahmudovaThe Aji Chai is the major river of the city, formed  by merging of three smaller rivers of Ab Nahand, Guri Chai, and Ojan Chai which all originate from the Sabalan Mountain range and heights in the south-eastern part of the town. The Aji Chai and other streams join the lake of Orumieh after passing through the valleys between the Sorkhband and Yekkeh Chin mountain north of Tabriz and Osku district. Mehran Rud also called Liqvan rud originates from the peaks between Karim and Sultan Mountains overlooking the Liqvan village near the beautiful Esparakhoon and Qeshloq villages.

Tabriz has mild Summers which makes this city an ideal Summer vacation spot for the Iranians from the more Southern areas of the country. The Winters are cold, the temperature drops often below -20 C,  and the snow covered  mountains of Tabriz are perfect for the lovers of Winter sports. Tabriz has a continental type of climate with low humidity of average annual rainfall  of 289 mm.

Tabriz has been vulnerable to earthquakes throughout its long history, one of which nearly destroyed the city completely in 858. After being rebuilt, it was again devastated in 1041, when more than 40.000 people lost their lives.

Tabriz - East Azerbaijan, Iran: Clock / Saat Tower - Tabriz City Hall - designed by the Armenian engineer Avedis Ohanjanian with a little help of Third Reich technology - HQ of the Azerbaijan People's Government in 1945-6 - photo by N.MahmudovaThe city is located a mere 160 km form the Iran-Nakhchivan border of Jolfa, and about 650 km N-W of Tehran. The city's airport is served by Iran Air services, with flights to Tehran, Mashhad, Rasht, Orumiyeh, Pars Abad (Moghan) and Kish Island. Tabriz is also connected to Tehran via railway and highway and is very close to the border city of Djolfa. Situated on the Iran-Europe railway and highway, and bordering three neighbouring countries is make Tabriz an important strategic point.

There are many factories and large industrial sites in Tabriz which have changed it into one of the industrial centers in Iran.  Among the most important:  tractors, machinery and ball-bearing manufacturing factories, a refinery and several carpet weaving sites.

Tabriz - East Azerbaijan, Iran: Sayed Hamzeh grave yard - Sarkhab area on the south east side of the Segatol Islam St. and Sayyed Hamzeh bazaar - photo by N.MahmudovaThe city has a long and turbulent history: although the early history of Tabriz is shrouded in legend and mystery, the town's origin is believed to date back to distant antiquity, perhaps even before the Sassanian era (224-651AD). The oldest stone tablet with a reference to Tabriz  is that of Sargon the second, the Assyrian King. The tablet refers to a place called Tauri Castle and Tarmkis. The historians believe this castle was situated on the site of the present day Tabriz.

It was the capital of Azerbaijan in the 3rd century AD and again under the Mongol Ilkhanid dynasty (1256 - 1353), although for some time Maragheh supplanted it.  During the reign of Aqa Khan of the Ilkhanids, as well as under the reign of Ghazan Khan, Tabriz reached the peak of glory and importance. Many great artists and philosophers from all over the world travelled to Tabriz.
Tabriz - East Azerbaijan, Iran: tiles - decoration at the Blue mosque - photo by N.MahmudovaIn 1392, after the end of Mongol rule, the town was sacked by Tamerlane.  It was soon restored under the Turkman tribe of the Qara Qoyunlu, who established a short-lived local dynasty.  Under the Safavids it rose from regional to national capital for a short period, but the second of the Safavid kings, Shah Tahmasb, moved the capital to Qazvin because of the vulnerability of Tabriz to Ottoman attacks. The town then went into a period of decline, fought over by the Persians, Ottomans and Russians and struck by earthquake .

Tabriz was the residence of the crown prince under the Qajar kings, but the town did not return to prosperity until the second half of the 19th century.

In the second Irano-Russian War the city was occupied by the Tzar's troops.  However, it was returned to Iran following the signing of Turkmanchai Treaty, a peace and trade settlement that ended the Irano-Russian War of 1826-1828.

The XIX century was also marked by the shah's repression of the Babism faith, with the execution of its founder - Mirza Ali Muhammad of Shiraz, alias the "Bab" (door). This event made Tabriz a fulcrum place for the Baha'i religion, that derived from Babism and has at its centre the Bab's teachings. (The Bab's remains now rest in Haifa, on a shrine on mount Carmel).

The greatest boost to Tabriz came with the opening up of Iran to the West at the turn of the XX century, when it became the main staging post between the interior of Iran and the Black Sea and, for a short time, the economic capital.  In 1908 it was the centre of a revolt against Mohammad Ali Shah, which was only put down with the intervention of the Russians.

The Iranian Constitutional Revolution originated in Tabriz and culminated during the reign of Mohammad Ali Shah of Qajar dynasty (1779-1925).  Sattar Khan and Baqer Khan were the two most prominent leading figures behind the movement.

Tabriz was occupied by Russians several times in the first half of the XX century, including most of both world wars. In the aftermath of the W.W.II Tabriz became briefly a capital again, under Russian control it was  the centre of the Independent Azeri state declared by Jafar Pishevary, but suppressed by Iran after the Russians removed their troops. A railway line to the border at Jolfa, built by the Russians, was of little importance until recently, but it has increased in significance as a result of Iran's friendlier relations with its northern neighbours.

With such a rich history, Tabriz used to house many historical monuments. Unfortunately, many of them were destroyed in repeated invasions and attacks, negligence of the ruling governments, as well natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. What remains now mostly dates back to the Ilkhanids, the Safavids, and the Qajars. Some of the monuments are unrivalled masterpieces of architecture.
Some of the places in Tabriz that you should not miss:

sources: Iran today, A Travel Guide to Iran, Aturpat, Netiran,Osinga,
see also: Uromiyeh, Ardebil, Zanjan, South Azerbaijan, history, hotels in Tabriz, places, summary

A to Z of Azerbaijan / A dan Z ye Azerbaycan