Covering an area of 14,711 square kilometers, Guilan Province is situated in the South of the Caspian Sea, the largest landlocked body of water in the world. It is also bounded to Talesh mountains westward and Alborz Mountain Ranges southward. Rasht is the capital city of the province. According to the last divisions of the country, the townships of the province are: Rasht, Astara, Astaneh Ashrafieh, Amlash, Bandar Anzali, Roodbar, Roodsar, Shaft, Someh Sara, Talesh, Fouman, Langrood, and Lahijan. The population of Guilan Province in 1996 was 2,241, 896 of which nearly 46.83% were registered as urban dwellers, 53.15% as villagers and remaining as non residents.
Located in northern part of the country. Guilan Province is divided into mountainous and plain parts. The mountainous areas from the west to the east are Talesh, Masouleh, Poshteh Kooh, and the Alborz Mountain Ranges which are themselves composed of western, central and eastern parts. Western Alborz surrounds Guilan Province as a stockade such that its highest summit is called Fak or Dolfak (Nest of Eagle). The plain regions of the province extend between the sea and the mountains to the altitude of 100 m and it is one of the eye catching natural attractions of the province.
Guilan enjoys a climate known as “moderate Caspian” which emerged under the influence of the weather of both Alborz Mountains and the Caspian Sea. Due to a very high annual precipitation (200 cm), there are many rivers originating from the northern slopes of Alborz Mountains terminating into the Caspian Sea. Having wonderful natural beauty, a pleasant climate, high mountains covered with lush vegetation and luxuriant forests, Guilan Province can annually attract a large number of visitors and play a key role in the development of tourism industry at national and international level . Vegetation that covers the province include flourishing forest of the northern skirts and mountainsides, luxuriant permanent grasslands and meadows in plain and mountainous regions, which are important and effective elements in the natural beauty of Guilan Province.
Anzali Wetland is one of the wonderful natural attractions of the region. There are eye- catching views and rare landscapes that are very important both from visual and recreational points of view. Due to its ecological characteristics and biological diversity, Anzali Wetland is one of the invaluable ecosystems of the world which has been declared in Ramsar Site (internationally important wetland) by UNESCO.
The coasts of Guilan Province are amongst the most beautiful ones in the world. They are very suitable for swimming, boating and other water sports. In addition to the tourism attractions, Guilan Province has important historical and religious attractions that will be discussed in related section. The history of Guilan is not so clear till the 6th century BC. But archeological excavations show that the antiquity of the lands in the southern parts of the Caspian Sea dates back to the last Freezing Period estimated to 50-150 millennia BC.
Some historians believe that human civilization has emerged from the southern coasts of the Caspian Sea and has extended westward, especially Mesopotamia. Historical record of civilization in Guilan at least dates back several millennia BC.
During that period, “Kasis”, the resident tribes of this region migrated to other regions for access to better lands. Meanwhile, some groups of migrant tribes including Aryans migrated to this region due to climatic changes and increase of coldness in their homeland. As a result, several new clans were formed of which two tribes of “Gil” and “Daylam” were in majority.
In the 6th century BC. Guilanians allied with Cyrus the Achaemenian and overthrew the Median Empire. After the defeat of Dariush III by Alexander the Macedonian, Achaemenian dynasty was overthrown and Alexander conquered Iran. After Alexander, Seleucidians took the power and at that time, local governors of Guilan ruled their land independently.
In the Sassanide time, Guilan lost its independence to some extent and Ardeshir Babakan overcame the local governors.
During the Abbasi Caliphate, Alavian clans lived in the mountainous areas of Daylam and tried to overthrew Abbasi Caliphs. Consequently, the unity of Daylamian and Alavian was founded. Around the year 290 AH, people of Guilan accepted Shiite religion and tried to expand it seriously. During this period some dynasties with Guilani and Daylami origins appeared in the history of Iran. One of the most important dynasties, was “Al Bouyeh” that even attacked Baghdad, capital city of Abbasi Caliphate, and defeated the Abbasi Caliph. In 7th century AH, Mongols tried to conquer Guilan, but due to geographical conditions and lack of accessibility, they could not reach the place till early 8th century AH. Finally, “Oljayto” could temporarily conquer this land for a short time. People of Guilan (Gilacks) played very important role in the emergence of Safavid Dynasty.Guilan lost its independence during the reign of Shah Abbas I. Russia began its first attack against Iran before Nadershah (founder of Afsharieh Dynasty).
In the year 1071 AH, some Russian Cossacks assaulted Guilan and plundered it. Nadershah paid appropriate attention to Guilan due to his high inclination to increase the power of his navy in the Caspian Sea. Gilacks had also an important role in the Constitutional Revolution in Iran. They conquered Tehran after two days of attack against Mohammed Ali Shah in 1287 AH. Moreover, their contribution to the movement of “Mirza Coochek Khan Jangali” or “Jungle Movement” is among the brilliant historical events of this territory.
Rasht, the capital city of the province, is one of the most important cities of this region. This city is situated in a vast plain at a distance of 30 kms from the Caspian Sea in the slopes of the Northern Alborz Mountain Ranges, The climate of Rasht is humid and unstable. Dominant wind currents from the Caspian Sea blow northeast to southwest, and annual precipitation is relatively high. The history of Rasht dates back to the pre-Islamic period i.e., the Sassanide time. The independent governors of this region were called “Guilanshah” before the attack of the Arabs to Iran. In the year 61 AH (682AD), after the conquest of Iran by Arabs, the name of Rasht was mentioned in historical documents for the first time.
In the Safavid time, especially in the reign of Shah Ismail, Guilan was composed of two sections of “Biehpas” with Rasht as the center, and “Biehpish” with Lahijan as the center . During the reign of Shah Tahmaseb I, the governance of both parts was assigned to “Khan Ahmad Guilan” . Finally, Shah Abbas I conquered Guilan. In the year 1045 AH, Stephan Razin, a Russian sailor plundered the city. The army of Peter the Great conquered the city in 1722 AD. They remained in the region till 1734 AD. This city was again conquered by the Russians in 1917 AD simultaneous with the Socialistic Revolution in Russia. Due to the outbreak of epidemic plague In 1867, many people lost their lives. In 1937 AD, an expanded revolution happened in the region to get “road tax” from the Russians, but the central government suppressed the movement.
The people of Rasht played a very important role in the Constitutional Revolution. The Russian and British armies as well as the local rebels attacked Rasht City during the World War I (1914- 1918) . In 1920, again Rasht became the arena of revolutionary movements. When the Red Army conquered Bakoo in 1918, the navy of White Army took asylum in the Anzali Port, which was under the control of the British army. The commander of the Red Navy chased them and conquered Anzali Port, as the result the British Army retreated. This event encouraged Guilan revolutionaries to establish an anti-British government movement under the leadership of “Mirza Coochek Khan Jangali”. British forces evacuated the city and went to Baghdad. Finally, Iranian army defeated the movement and a treaty was signed with Russia after which they evacuated the city.
Currently, Rasht as the capital city of Guilan Province is the most important trade center between Caucasia, Russia and Iran and holds considerable tourism facilities. The important natural, historical, and religious monuments of the city follows:
• Shourlakan and Cheshmegol Springs,
• The historical gardens of Sardar Mohtasham and Meshkat(Salar).
• The Tomb of Mirza Coochek Khan.
• Shahpour School.
• Clock Tower.
• Lat Caravansary.
• The old private houses of Haj Mirza Abrishami, Sardar Motamed Rashti, Seyed Ismail Zyabari, and Seyed Ali Moghimi.
• Castle of Sassan.
• Bridge of Morghanehpar.
• Old public bathes of Piresara and Shahzadeh.
• Mosques of Safi “Sefid” and Jam Jour.
• Several Mausoleums and Imamzadehs.