REŻWĀNŠAHR, small town and sub-provencial unit (šahrestān) in the western part of Gilān Province. The town is located at lat 37°33′ N, long 49°07′ E. The district is created from the traditional region of Ṭāleš Dulāb, which resulted from the division of the large district of Gaskar, when Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah Qājār (r. 1797-1834), at the beginning of his reign, divided the Persian Ṭāleš between local leaders in order to weaken the family of Mir Moṣtafā Khan of Āstārā. Ṭāleš Dulāb was given to Moḥammadqoli Khan of Punel, and it was subsequently known as one of the Ḵamsa-ye Ṭawāleš “Five Khanates of Ṭāleš” (Fraser, p. 145; Chodzko, p. 264; Häntzsche, pp. 54-55; Melgunof, p. 250; Rabino, pp. 90, 107; tr., pp. 97-98, 119).
This extensive district included, as it does now, several important valleys from the north to the south, namely those of the Lomir River (Rud-e Lomir), the two branches of the Šafārud that flow into the Caspian Sea together with intermediate smaller rivers, and the Ḵošābar River coming from the mountains of Šāndarman and downstream called the Čāfrud before reaching the western end of the Mordāb-e Anzali (Jaʿfari, pp. 172, 211, 294, 438). The population of the whole mountainous area and its piedmont, as already indicated in the 19th century by the above-mentioned authors, is Ṭāleš and exclusively Sunnite, in contrast to the Ṭāleš and Shiʿite inhabitants of the adjoining valley of Šāndarman and the Gilak and Shiʿite population of the small area between Punel and the Caspian Sea, called Gil Dulāb. On the limit of the latter area and Gaskar, in the forest of Haft Daḡanān, the tombs of the Gilak poet Pir Šarafšāh Dulābi (fl. 7th/13th cent.) and his mother Sayyeda Bānu constitute an important Shiʿite sanctuary, while a number of “holy mountains” are scattered over the Sunnite mountain area, exactly as in Shiʿite southern and northern Ṭāleš. The tomb of Solṭān Barzkuh on the ridge over the Lomir valley is especially interesting for being associated with both holy trees and holy mountains, a common feature found throughout Ṭāleš. Located on the top of a conical wooded peak, it consists of two small buildings shaded by an oak tree of the subalpine level (Quercus macranthera), not very tall but thick and vigorous, and visited by both Sunnite and Shiʿite pilgrims (Bromberger, 2009, p. 106; Sotuda, pp. 85-88, 90). Others are limited to a tomb and a circle of stones like Golilarz on the ridge between Ḵošābar and Arda valleys, or Diagā on the Ḵošābar-Šāndarman boundary (Sotuda, pp. 90, 91; Bazin, 1978). Gregori Melgnuf (p. 272) reports that, among the Ṭāleš, those living in the southern valley were identified as belonging to a tribe called Ḵošābar, because its founder was said to have owned a house with a door (bar) made out of bone (ḵāš). This tradition is still alive in the Ḵošābar area, where the tribe is divided into several clans, each one having its own habitat and pastoral migratory pattern: namely, Malāl, Dašt Miān, Ḵeyla Gavan, Razdār, Golilarz, and Yegāna, all autochthonous and having each a maḥalla bearing their name, and also Širāzi, which is presented by Melgunof (p. 272) as a newcomer from around that city (Bazin, 1980, II, p. 41; for map of pastoral routes, see p. 40).
In reference to the economy, Melgunof mentioned only wheat, honey, silk, and stock-raising, while Chodzko (p. 264) and Häntzsche (p. 55) pointed out important production of rice as well, especially in the Gil Dulāb plain. Rabino (pp. 107-14, tr. 119-27) did not provide a precise report about the production of the district, but he mentioned a revenue of 49,462.95 krans for Gil Dulāb, 74,425.90 krans for Ṭāleš Dulāb stricto sensu, which made a total of 123,888.85 krans, much higher than the revenue in the neighboring districts: 63,228.87 krans for Asālem, 28,953 krans in Māsāl, and 18,517.02 krans in Šāndarman (pp. 106, 118, 131, tr. pp. 117, 133, 146).
When the administrative reform implemented by Reżā Shāh in 1937 (Digard, Hourcade, and Richard, p. 81) created ten provinces (ostān) divided into sub-provincial units (šahrestān) and districts (baḵš), Ṭāleš Dulāb was integrated as a baḵš into the šahrestān of Ṭawāleš and received the name of its main marketplace, Reżwāndeh or Čahār-rāh-e Reżwāndeh (“Reżwāndeh Crossroad,” being at the crossroads of the road from Māsāl to Asālem and Haštpar and that from Anzali to Punel and thence to Ḵalḵāl through the valley of Šafārud). Although the new asphalted Anzali-Haštpar road passed around in order to avoid this locality, it nevertheless made it notable and led to the changing of its name to Reżwānšahr in the 1970s, and it was finally, in recognition of its urban dimension, made the center of a new šahrestān by the administrative reform of 1998. The present-day šahrestān is divided into two districts (baḵš): the central (baḵš-e markazi), which includes the two pre-existent dehestāns (subdistricts) of Ḵošābar and Gil Dulāb, and that of Para Sar. The latter includes two newly delimited subdistricts, namely Yeylāqi-e Arda in the upper valleys and Dināčāl in its lower part of the district, where Para Sar has developed—from an active marketplace (weekly market on Tuesdays and permanent shops and services) and center of the newly founded district—into a small town with 7,875 inhabitants in 2006. With 12,355 inhabitants in the town of Reżwānšahr and a rural population of 44,228 persons, the district reached a total population of 64,458 inhabitants in 2006 (Markaz-e Āmār, 2006).
Along the coastal plain and lower valleys, the domination of rice cultivation is quasi-exclusive, since sericulture, still present in a few maḥallas of Gil Dulāb in 1949 (Razmārā, p. 266), and tobacco plantations, mentioned by the 1966 census in the vicinity of Punel, have almost totally disappeared. The traditional landscape, habitat, and practice of rice cultivation have been remarkably illustrated by the movie Bāšu, ḡariba-ye kuček (Bāshu, the little stranger), directed by Bahrām Beyżāʾi in 1985 in Janba Sarā, a maḥalla of Para Sar (Devictor, pp. 161, 177). Paddy fields have a changing aspect in the course of seasons; the domestic compound includes a number of characteristic buildings, the large house where a lateral tālār constitutes the reception space, the high round paddy-barn perched on strong wood pilings (kuti), typical of this Para Sar subdistrict (Bazin, 1980, I, pp. 140-41), the oven for baking bread under a separate roof, the stable and the poultry roost (Bazin, 1980, I, sketch on pp. 173, photograph on p. 210). When paddy is ripening, night watches are organized on a wood platform (kutām) in order to protect it against wild boars.
In contrast to southern Ṭāleš, the mountain zone has kept a significant number of permanent settlements with extensive cultivated areas, especially in mid-altitude levels, which are also used as an intermediate stage in the pastoral migratory cycle. Unirrigated wheat and barley fields alternate with fallow lands, often collectively organized in vast groups of plots closed at their periphery and watched from wooden platforms in order to avoid intrusion of wild boars (Bazin, 1980, II pp. 17-21). Animal husbandry remains very active, both in the hands of (exclusively Ṭāleš) paddy-growers of the plain and specialized cattle-breeders called gāleš and shepherds (čupān) living in mountain settlements. Thus all the mountainous area shows an intricate network of pastoral routes and various types of permanent and temporary settlements (see map in Bazin, 1980, II, p. 40, and a sketch of complex movements between the piedmont village of Ardajān and the mid-mountain village of Arda, on p. 36).
Two types of specific commercial structures serve this migrant agro-pastoral population during summer: the shops of the two main permanent villages of upper valleys, Lomir and Arda, and to the south of these two temporary bazaars on higher summer pastureland; the one in Yekšanba Bāzār used to be controlled by the khans of Punel, but it has declined with the loss of the khan’s social and political influence, which benefited that of Šālrāh serving summer pastures of Ḵošābar and the northernmost summer quarters (yeylāq) of Šāndarman (Bazin, 1977, pp. 205-7).
Marcel Bazin, “Les bazars saisonniers de montagne dans le Tāleš,” in Güthner Schweizer, ed., Beiträge zur Geographie orientalischer Städte und Märkte, Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, Reihe B, 24, Wiesbaden, 1977, pp. 201-11.
Idem, “Le culte des arbres et des montagnes dans le Tâleš (Iran du nord-ouest),” in Rémy Dor and Michèl Nicolas, eds., Quand le crible était dans la paille : Hommage à Pertev Naili Boratav, Paris, 1978, pp. 95-104.
Idem, Le Tâlech, une région ethnique au nord de l’Iran, 2 vols., Paris, 1980.
Christian Bromberger, “La solution Tâlech: sur la transmission de l’appartenance confessionnelle dans le nord de l’Iran,” in A.-M. Grange, P. Grandjean and A. Reynaud, eds, Les vertus de l’interdiscipliniraité: Mélanges offerts à Marcel Bazin, Reims, 2009, pp. 105-9.
Alexandre Chodzko, “Le Ghilan ou les marais caspiens,” Nouvelles annales des voyages et des sciences géographiques, nelle série, 1849, no. 4, p. 264.
Agnès Devictor, “Une politique publique du cinéma: le cas de la République islamique d’Iran,” Politix 16/1, 1st trimestre 2003, pp. 151-76.
Jean-Pierre Digard, Bernard Hourcade and Yann Richard, L’Iran au XXe siècle, Paris 1996; tr. ʿAbd-al-Reżā Mahdawi, as Irān dar qarn-e bistom, Tehran, 1988.
James B. Fraser, Travels and Adventures in the Persian Provinces on the Southern Banks of the Caspian Sea, London, 1826, pp. 145, 281-85.
Julius C. Häntzsche, Talysch, eine geographische Skizze, Dresden, 1867.
ʿAbbās Jaʿfari, Gitā-šenāsi II: Rudhā wa rud-nāma-ye Irān, Tehran, 2005.
Markaz-e Āmār-e Irān, Sar-šomāri-e ʿomumi-e nofus o maskan, Tehran, 1966-2006.
Grigori Melgunof, Das südliche Ufer des Kaspischen Meeres, oder die Nordprovinzen Persiens, Leipzig, 1868, pp. 250, 271-73.
Ali Pour-Fickoui and Marcel Bazin, Elevage et vie pastorale dans le Guilân (Iran septentrional), Paris, 1978.
H.-L. Rabino, Les provinces caspiennes de la Perse: le Guîlân, RMM 32, Paris, 1916-17, pp. 115-31; tr. Jaʿfar Ḵomamizāda, as Welāyāt-e dār-al-marz-e Irān: Gilān, Tehran, 1978 pp. 107-114.
Ḥosayn-ʿAli Razmārā, ed., Farhang-e joḡrāfiāʾi-e Irān II, Tehran, 1949, p. 132.
Manučehr Sotuda, Az Āstārā tā Estārbād I: Āṯār wa banāhā-ye tāriḵi-e Gilān Biapas, Tehran, 1970, pp. 83-93.
Originally Published: January 1, 2000
Last Updated: June 19, 2012