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Saturday, 6-May-2006 12:04 Email | Share | Bookmark
leaving Urmia

City hall
Police station
cegonbad tower
cegonbad tower
cegonbad tower
main mousqe
Urmia Bazaar
traditional cheese
Urmia's souvenirs
sugar-coated nuts(comifit) Noghl
Urmia's souvenirs
I think you know this food!!!
city center
back to tabriz
Road by Urmia lake
It is not complete yet
They are busy by building a bridge (A1700 m bridge)
West Azarbaijan or West Azerbaijan (Persian: آذربایجان غربی Āzārbāijān-e Gharbī; Kurdish: Azerbaycanî Rojawa; Azeri: Qərbi Azərbaycan) is one of the 30 provinces of Iran.
The province of West Azarbaijan covers an area of 39,487 sq km, or 43,660 sq km including Lake Urmia. In 2006 the province had a population of 3015361 [1]. The capital city of the province is Urmia

The name "Azarbaijan" comes from the ancient Old Persian name Atro Patikan and Middle Persian "Adur Paiyigan." The name means "The Guardians of Fire"—a referemce to the holy Zoroastrian fire that burned in the grand fire temple at Ganzak/Ganzaca (modern Takab) —the first capital of Azerbaijan/Media Minor.

According to various sources cited in Encyclopedia Iranica (p.206), the current province of West Azarbaijan was part of the Sassanid Azarbadegan satrap as far back as the 3rd century.(ibid p.206) The current ruins of Takht-i Suleiman in today’s West Azarbaijan was the capital of the Azarbaijan Satrapy.(ibid p.206) The borders of Azarbaijan at times extended even as far south as Sanandaj.(ibid p.206)

Excavation sites such as Teppe Hasanlu establish permanent settlement in the province to the 6th millennium BCE. In Hasanlu, a famous Golden Vase was found in 1958. The province is also the location of Teppe Hajifiruz, site of some of the world’s earliest evidence of wine production.[2] Gooy Teppe is another significant site. A metal plaque dating from 800 BCE depicts a scene from the epic of Gilgamesh. Islamic researchers proclaim that the birth of the prophet Zoroaster was in this area, in the vicinity of Lake Orumieh (Chichesht), Konzak City.

Ruins such as these and the UNESCO world heritage site at the Sassanid compound of Takht-i-Suleiman illustrate the strategic importance and tumultuous history of the province through the millennia. Overall, the province enjoys a wealth of historical attractions, with 169 sites registered by the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran.

The province continued to experience many wars and ethnic unrest over the centuries. Numerous Azari Turks arrived in the region, including to the west of Lake Urmia beginning around the 13th century.(E.I. p.206).

The first monarch of Iran's Qajar dynasty, Agha Muhammad Khan, was coronated in Urmia in 1795.

Significant events in the 20th century that took place are:

the Soviet occupation in 1946;
the foundation and destruction of the Republic of Mahabad in 1946; and
periodic severe fighting from 1979 until 1990s (and even to the present, but on a smaller scale [3]) between Kurdish (nationalist and communist) forces and the Iranian government. At times, large parts of the province were without government control[4].

The climate
of the province is largely influenced by the rainy winds of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean. Cold northern winds affect the province during winter and cause heavy snow. According to existing meteorological data, local temperatures vary within the province. Average temperature differs from 9.4°C in Piranshahr to 11.6°C in Mahabad, while it is 9.8°C in Urmia, 10.8°C in Khoy, 9.4°C in Piranshahr, and in Mahabad 11.6°C. According to same data, the highest temperature in the province reaches 34°C in July, and the lowest temperature is –16°C in January. Maximum change of temperature in summer is 4°C, and in winter 15°C.
The province is divided into 14 townships. The present number of townships was achieved over time by subdivision of many of the larger townships into smaller ones. The townships in the province are: Urmia, Salmas, Naghadeh, Piranshahr, Bukan, Khoy, Mahabad, Oshnaviyeh, Sardasht, Chaldoran, Miandoab, Maku, Takab, and Shahindej.

There are no official statistics or census figures on the ethnic makeup of Iranian cities. The Encyclopedia Iranica however states that the geographic extent of Azeri-speaking people goes "well beyond the boundaries of West Azarbaijan" (E.I. p.207), and that Kurdish people "are found in the border regions of the West Azerbaijan province". (E.I., p.234). Dehkhoda also mentions in his dictionary that "the language of Azarbaijan is a branch of the Iranian languages known as Azari".

Five of the cities in the province have predominantly Kurdish populations, namely: Oshnaviyeh, Piranshahr, Bukan, Sardasht, and Mahabad. On the other hand, the cities of Miandoab and Urmia have Azeri majorities, while the rural areas of the township of Urmia are predominantly Kurdish. Naghadeh is thought to be majority Kurdish by some sources, Azeri by others. The city of Urmia also has a large Kurdish population. The remaining townships are heterogeneous and their populations have long been a mixture of Azeri and Kurdish peoples.

The Azeri and Kurdish peoples constitute the majority of the province’s population, but there are also four small ethnic and religious groups who are native to the province but who have minority status: Assyrians, Armenians, and Jews.

The Sunni and Yarsan Kurds predominate in the western and southern highlands in the province, while the lowlands are dominated by the Shi’a Azeris (in the north), and Armenian and Assyrian Christians (in the south). The present borders of the province are the artifact of the Iranian official cartography and do not correspond with the borders of historic Azarbaijan (which ended where the highlands began).

The diversity of religions in the province has been a major factor throughout the entire history of the province. The religions in the province are: Islam (Sunni and Shia sects), Christianity, Judaism, and Yarasani. Both Kurds and Turks follow Islam, the Kurds belonging to the Sunni branch and the Turks being mainly Shias, except for a very small minority who follow a religion called Yarasani (or Ahl-e Haqq, اهل حق). Christianity is the main religion of the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Armenians. The Jews, as the name indicates, belong to the Judaism religion.

In this province, Islam (Sunni and Shiite) is the majority religion. However, there is also a large Christian minority, comprised of Assyrians who have historically lived on the west shore of Lake Urmia, as well as Armenians who are scattered throughout the province. Notably, the city of Maku in northern West Azarbaijan was the only city in Iran (before World War II) where Christians comprised the majority.

St. Thaddeus Cathedral is located on the outskirts of Chaldoran, near the village of Qara-Kelissa. Besides being a religious site with a particular significance among Iranian Christians, particularly Armenians, this large church (monastery) is also a rare and valuable monument in architectural and artistic terms.

St. Thaddeus, also known as Jude Thaddeus or Jude Labbeus, was one of the apostles of Jesus Christ who traveled to Armenia, where he was later killed and upon whose grave the locals erected a small chapel in AD 301. The cathedral is known as Qara-kelissa ('Black church' in Turkish) to the locals, owing to the appearance of its western section.

Churches in West Azarbaijan
In all, thirty-one churches are registered by the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran in the province. Many of these are historical landmarks and unusually rich in heritage. Some of the more famous ones are listed as follows[9]:

Qara Kelissa (The Black Church), Armenian, Chaldoran, early Christianity.
Kelisa Naneh Maryam (Church of Mother Mary), Assyrian, Urmia, Sassanid era.
Kelisa Hazrat Maryam (Church of Mary), Assyrian, Urmia, late Sassanid period.
Kelisa Surep Serkis, Khoy, 4th century AD.
Kelisa Haftvan, Salmas, Armenian, 13th century.
Kelisa Golpashin, Urmia, rebuilt in 1905.
Kelisa Martoma (Church of Thomas), believed by local Armenians to be the first church in Iran founded by St. Thomas himself.
Kelisa Qarabagh, Armenian, Ilkhanid period.
Kelisa Marserkis, Assyrian, Urmia, Sassanid era.
Kelisa Petrosoplos (Church of Paul and Peter), Urmia, believed built by Bukhtishu.
Kelisa Golan, Assyrian, 5th century.
Kelisa Mardanial, outside Urmia, Sassanid era, destroyed in WWI, rebuilt.
Kelisa Vank Khosrow-abad, near Salmas, Assyrian, built by Khosrau II of Persia. The Holy Cross of Jerusalem was kept here for a while.
Kelisa Zurzur, Chaldoran, built in AD 1315.

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