e region was once part of the Neo Assyrian Empire. The name of
Azarbayjan derives from Atropates, an Iranian satrap of Media under the
Achaemenid empire, who later was reinstated as the satrap of Media under
Alexander of Macedonia. The original etymology of this name is thought
to have its roots in the ancient Zoroastrianism, namely, in Avestan
Frawardin Yasht ("Hymn to the Guardian Angels"), there is a mentioning
of: aterepatahe ashaono fravashim yazamaide, which literally translates
from Old Persian as "we worship the Fravashi of the holy Atare-pata .
Atropates ruled over the region of present-dayIranian Azarbayjan.
According to various sources cited in Encyclop?dia Iranica, the
current province of West Azarbayjan was part of the Sassanid Azarbadegan
satrap as far back as the 3rd century. The current ruins of Takht-i
Suleiman in today's West Azarbayjan were the capital of the Azarbayjan
settlements were established in the province as early as the 6th
millennium BCE as excavation at sites such as Teppe Hasanlu establish.
In Hasanlu, a famous Golden Vase was found in 1958. Gooy Teppe is
another significant site, where a metal plaque dating from 800 BCE was
found that depicts a scene from the epic of Gilgamesh.
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.
While some Islamic researchers have proclaimed that the birth of the
prophet Zoroaster was in this area, in the vicinity of Lake Orumieh
(Chichesht), Konzak City, recent scholarship indicates that Ardabil or
sites in Central Asia are more likely.
The province continued to experience many wars over the centuries.
Numerous Azeris arrived in the region, including to the west of Lake
Urmia beginning around the 13th century.
The first monarch of Iran's Qajar dynasty, Agha Muhammad Khan, was crowned in Urmia in 1795.
Significant events in 19th and 20th century that took place are:
- Shaikh Ubeidullah Revolts, west and south of Lake Urmia in 1880
- Assyrian wars with the Ottomans and Kurds 1914-1918
- Assyrian Genocide
- Simko Insurrections, west of Lake Urmia from 1918 to 1922
- the Soviet occupation in 1946
- the foundation and destruction of the Republic of Mahabad in 1946
These separatist movements may have many motivations and origins;
however, the colonialist policies of the Soviet Union and Imperial
Russia encouraged such movements. In a cable sent on July 6, 1945 by the
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the local
Soviet commander in Russian held Azarbayjan (northern Azarbayjan) was
"Begin preparatory work to form a national autonomous Azarbayjan
district with broad powers within the Iranian state and simultaneously
develop separatist movements in the provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran,
Gorgan, and Khorasan".
The city of Urmia in northwest of Iran, is considered one of the
ancient cities of the country and a Cradle of civilization. The diggings
in the ancient ruins around Urmia led to the discovery of utensils,
some of which date back to some 2000 years B.C. Also research by
Professor Minorski shows that there have been villages in the Urmia
plain some 2000 years B.C., with their civilizationunder the influence
of Van nation.
In the ancient times, the west bank of Urmia lake was called Gilzan,
and in the ninth century B.C. an independent government ruled there
which later joined the Urartu or Mana empire;
In the eight century B.C., the area was a vassal of the Asuzh
government until it joined the Median Empire after its formation.
All and all, according to historical documents, the western part of
the Urmia Lake has been a center of attention of the prehistoric
nations, the evidence of which are the numerous ancient hills in the
area, such as Gouy Tapeh, 6 kilometers southeast of the lake which
competes with the oldest hills of Mesopotamia, Asia the Minor, and the
Many old Islamic historians have acknowledged Urmia as the
birthplace of Prophet Zoroaster, but this has been rejected by
Iranologists and linguists.
The claim that the area was the birthplace of Zoroaster, or even the
burial site of one or two of the Zoroastrian priests who allegedly
traveled to Bethlehem for Christ’s birth indicate that the city has been
one of the largest religious and scientific centers of the ancient
Urmia, according to some historians, is believed to be the
birthplace of the prophet Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism.
The Columbia mentions that Urmia was an important town in the region
during the 9th century. In 950's the ruler of Urmia was Jastan bin
Sharmazan, a devoted general of Daisam al-Kurdi, and the area was scene
of power shift between Kurds and Dailamis. In 1040's, ruler of Urmia,
Abu Hidja bin Rabib al-Dawla, chief of Hadhabani Kurds, defeated Ghuz
tribes who tried to invade Urmia and killed thousands of Ghuz invaders.
Eventually the city was reportedly sacked and destroyed by the Seljuk
Turks in 1184.
The Ottoman Turks made several incursions into the city, but the
Safavids were soon able to regain control over the area. The first
monarch of Iran's Qajar dynasty, Agha Muhammad Khan, was crowned in
Urmia in 1795.
In this province, Islam is the majority religion. However, there is
also a large Assyrians Christian minority, who has 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
Azarbayjan was the only city in Iran (before World War II) where
Christians comprised the majority. Before World War I, Christian
Armenians and Assyrians compromised a significant minority in Urmia, but
that during the Ottoman and Russian Wars (during World War I) many left
the region following the Assyrian Genocide.
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 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.
In 1329, the church was reconstructed in its present form after an
earthquake destroyed the structure in 1319.
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. In 2008, UNESCO selected a
group of these religious structures as part of the Armenian Monastic
Ensembles in Iran World Heritage Site.
- 'Shalmash' fall of Sardasht county.
- 'Hasanloo' hill.
- 'Takhti Soleiman'
- Saint Thaddeus Monastery (Qara Kelissa)
- 'Sahoolan' cave.
- Bookan dam
- 3000 years old ancient city of Moosasir
- 'Segonbad' (3 domes)
- 'Nanemaryam' (Marya mom) church