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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 189 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PERSIA, a kingdom of western Asia, bounded on the N. by the Caspian Sea and the Russian Transcaucasian and Transcaspian territories, on the E. by Afghanistan and Baluchistan, on the S. by the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, and on the W. by Turkish territory. Long before the Christian era the satrapies of Darius com.prehended roughly an immense range of territory, from the Mediterranean to the Indus and from the Caucasian chain and Jaxartes to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Ocean. In the 17th and 18th centuries A.D. the conquests of 'Abbas and Nadir kept up these boundaries more or less on the east, but failed to secure them on the west, and were limited to the Caucasus and Oxus on the north. Persia of the present day is not only, in the matter of geographical definition, far from the vast empire of Sacred Writ and remote history, but it is not even the less extensive dominion of the Safawi kings and Nadir Shah. It may be said, however, to comprise now quite as much settled and consolidated territory as at any period of its political existence of which we can speak with authority. Boundaries.—The region of Ararat presents a good starting point for the definition of the western and northern frontiers of Persia. A line 20 M. in length from a point western on the river Aras, in 39 45' N. and 44 40' E. to Frontier. Mt Ararat, in the south-westerly direction, divides Persia from Russia. Southwards from Mt Ararat the Perso-Turkish frontier extends about 700 M. to the mouth of the Shatt el Arab in the Persian Gulf in 300 N. and 48° 40' E., but is undefined with the exception of the western boundary of the little district of Kotur. A mixed commission was appointed in 1843 for the settlement of the Perso-Turkish frontier. The labours of this commission resulted in the Erzerum treaty of 1847, by which both powers abandoned some lands and agreed to appoint commissioners to define the frontier. The commissioners met in 1849, 1850 and 1851 at Bagdad and Muhamrah without arriving at any result. In 1851 Lord Palmerston proposed that the general line of frontier should be traced by the agents of Turkey and Persia at Constantinople, assisted by the commissioners, in conformity with the treaty of Erzerum, leaving doubtful localities to be settled in future. The Russian government agreed to this proposal, and the work of surveying the country from Mt Ararat to the Persian Gulf was then undertaken. When this was done the preparation of a map, embracing territory 700 M. in length by 20 to 40 M. broad, was unsettled, and disputes have frequently arisen between the Turkish and Persian governments with regard to their respective claims to land (Hertslet, Persian Treaties). In the autumn of 1907 Turkish troops occupied not only "doubtful localities" but also adjoining lands which were indisputably Persian territory. The want of a determined line of demarcation English Miles 0 SO 100 150 Sao Roads_.--.._ Capitals of Proulncea Boundary delimited _ ~I~fYR Boundary undelimited..__._._.._.__I 1Ie Deserts. _-.mss x 17 Swamps put in hand, and this work lasted from November 1857 till March 1865, when the Porte was informed in May of that year that " in the opinion of the mediating Powers, the future line of boundary between the respective dominions of the sultan and the shah was to be found within the limits traced on the map; that the two Mahommedan governments should themselves mark out the line; and that in the event of any differences arising between them in regard to any particular locality, the points in dispute should be referred to the decision of the governments of England and Russia." This boundary has remained between the two countries may have political advantages, but is inconvenient to the geographer and most unfavourable to the cause of order and good government. From the point on the Aras River 20 M. north-east of Mt Ararat, the river forms the northern boundary down to 48° E. The frontier line then runs about 35 M. in a south- easterlY direction through the Moghan steppe to Northers Frontier. Pilsowar on the Bulgharu River and then south with a bend to the west to the Astara River and the port of Astara in 38° 27' N. and 4&' 53' E. From Astara eastwards the boundary river of Herat, in its upper course); it then runs almost due south to the border of Seistan in 31° N., and then through Seistan follows the line fixed by Sir Frederick Goldsmid's and Sir Henry McMahon's commissions in 1872 and 1903–1905 to Kuh i Malik Siah. From this point to the sea the frontier separates Persian territory from British Baluchistan and runs south-east to Kuhak and then south-west to Gwetter. This last section was determined by Sir Frederick Goldsmid's commission in 1871. The southern boundary is the coast line of the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf from Gwetter to the mouth of the Shatt el Arab, a distance of about 87o m., comprised between 48° 40' E. and 61° 30' E. The islands situated close to the northern shore of the Persian Gulf are Persian territory; they are, from east to west, Hormuz (Ormus), Larak, Kishm, Hengam, Furur, Kish (Kais), Hindarabi, Shaikh-Shu'aib, Jebrin, Kharak, Kharaku (Khorgu). Physical Geography.—Modern Persia occupies the western and larger half of the great Iranian plateau which, rising to a height of from 4000 to 8000 ft. between the valleys of the Indus and Tigris, covers more than a million square miles. Taking the Kuren Dagh or Kopet Dagh to form the northern scarp of this plateau east of the Caspian, we find a prolongation of it in the highlands north of the political frontier on the Aras, and even in the Caucasus itself. On the north-west Persia is united by the highlands of Armenia to the mountains of Asia Minor; on the north-west the Paropamisus and Hindu Kush connect it with the Himalayas. The lines of boundary on the western and eastern faces are to be traced amid high ranges of mountains broken here and there by deserts and valleys. These ranges lie for the most part north-east and south-east, as do those in the interior, with a marked exception between Teheran and Bujnurd, and in Baluchistan, where they lie rather north-east and south-west, or, in the latter case, sometimes east and west. The real lowlands are the tracts near the sea-coast belonging to the forest-clad provinces of the Caspian in the north and the shores of the Persian Gulf below Basra and elsewhere. The Persians have no special names for the great ranges. Mountains and valleys are known only by local names which frequently cover but a few miles. Even the name Elburz, which European geographers apply to the chains and ranges that extend for a length of over 500 in. from Azerbaijan in the west to Khorasan in the east, stands with the Persians only for the 6o or 70 m. of mountains north and north-east of Teheran, including the cone of Demavend. The great central range, which extends, almost unbroken, for nearly 800 m. from Azerbaijan in the north-west to Baluchistan in the south-east, may aptly be called the Central Range. It has many peaks 9000 to to,000 ft. in height, and some of its summits rise to an elevation of I1,000 ft. and near Kerman of nearly 13,000 ft. (Kuh-i-Jupar). The valleys and plains west of the Central Range, as for instance those of Mahallat, Joshekan, Isfahan, Sirjan, have an elevation of 5000 to 6500 ft.; those within the range, as Jasp, Ardahal, So, Pariz, are about moo ft. higher; and those east of it slope from an elevation of 5000 to 6000 ft. down to the depressions of the central plateau which, east of Kum, are not more than 2600 ft. and east of Kerman 1500 to 1700 ft. above the sea-level. Some of the ranges west of the Central Range, which form the highlands of Kurdistan, Luristan, Bakhtiari and Fars, and are parallel to it, end near the Persian Gulf ; others follow the Central Range, and take a direction to the east at some point between Kerman and the sea on the western frontier of Baluchistan. Some of these western ranges rise to considerable elevations; those forming the Turko-Persian frontier west of the lake of Urmia have peaks ii,000 ft. in height, while the Sahand, east of the lake and south of Tabriz, has an elevation of 12,000 ft. Farther south, the Takht-i-Bilkis, in the Afshar district, rises to 11,200 ft., the Elvend (ancient>r 8 9 Orontes), near Hamadan, to 11,600. The Shuturun Kuh, south of Burujird, is over 11,000 ft. in height, the Shahan Kuh, Kuh-i-Gerra, Zardeh Kuh and Kuh-i-Karan (by some writers called Kuh-i-Rang), all in the Bakhtiari country west of Isfahan, are 12,800 to 13,000 ft. in height; and the Kuh-i-Dina (by some writers wrongly called Kuh-i-Dinar) has an elevation of over 14,000 ft. Still farther south, towards Kerman, there are several peaks (Bid-Khan, Lalehzar, Shah-Kuh, Jamal Bariz, &c.) which rise to an elevation of 13,000 ft. or more, and the Kuh-i-Hazar, south of Kerman, is 14,700 ft. in height. Beginning near Ardebil in Azerbaijan, where the cone of Savelan rises to an elevation of 15,792 ft. (Russian trigonometrical survey), and ending in Khorasan, the great Elburz range presents on its southern, or inward, face a more or less abrupt scarp rising above immense gravel slopes, and reaches in some of its summits a height of nearly 13,000 ft.; and the peak of Demavend, north-west of Teheran; has a height of at least 18,000 ft. There are several important ranges in Khorasan, and one of them, the Binalud, west of Meshed and north of Nishapur, has several peaks of 11,000 to 12,000 ft. in height. In south-eastern Persia the Kuhi-Basman, a dormant volcano, 11,000 to 12,000 ft. in height, in the Basman district, and the Kuh-i-Taftan, i.e. the hot or burning mountain (also called Kuh-i-Nushadar from the " sal ammoniac," nushadar, found on its slopes), an active triple-peaked volcano in the Sarhad district and 12,681 ft. in height (Captain Jennings), are notable features. Taking the area of Persia at 628,000 sq. m. the drainage may thus be distributed: (1) into the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf, 135,000 sq. m.; (2) into the Caspian, loo,000; (3) into Rivers. the Seistan depression, 43,000; (4) into the Urmia Lake, 20,000; (5) into the interior of Persia, 330,000. The first district comprises most of the south-western provinces and the whole of the coast region as far east as Gwetter; the second relates to the tracts west, south and east of the southern part of the Caspian Sea. The tracts south of the Caspian are not more than 20 to 50 m. wide; those on the west widen out to a depth of 250 m., meeting the watershed of the Tigris on the one side and that of the Euphrates and Lake Van on the other, and embracing between the two the basin of Lake Urmia. On the east the watershed of the Caspian gradually increases in breadth, the foot of the scarp extending considerably to the north of the south-eastern angle of that sea, three degrees east of which it turns to the south-east, parallel to the axis of the Kopet Dagh. The third drainage area comprises Persian Seistan with part of the Helmund (Hilmend) basin and a considerable tract adjoining it on the west. The fourth is a comparatively small area on the western frontier containing the basin of Lake Urmia, shut off from the rest of the inland drainage, and the fifth area takes in a part of Baluchistan, most of Kerman, a part of Fars, all Yezd, Isfahan, Kashan, Kum, Irak, Khamseh, Kazvin, Teheran, Samnan, Damghan, Shahrud, Khorasan and the central desert regions. Four rivers belonging essentially to Persia, in reference to the Caspian watershed, are the Seafid Rud or Kizil Uzain on the south-west, the Herhaz on the south and the Gurgan and Atrek at the south-eastern corner of that inland sea. The Seafid Rud rises in Persian Kurdistan in about 35° 50' N. and 46° 45' E., a few miles from Senendij. It has a very tortuous course of nearly 500 m., for the distance from its source to the Caspian, 57 m. east of Resht, is only 210 m. in a straight line. The Kizil Uzain takes up some important affluents and is called Seafid Rud from the point where it breaks through the Elburz to the sea, a distance of 70 m. It drains 25,000 to 30,000 sq. M. of the country. The Herhaz, though not important in length of course or drainage, also, like the Seafid Rud, breaks through the Elburz range from the inner southern scarp to the north. It rises on the slopes of the Kasil Kuh, a peak 12,000 ft. in height within the Elburz, and about 25 m. north of Teheran, flows easterly through the Lar plateau, where it is known as the Lar River, and takes up several affluents; turns to the north-east at the foot of Demavend, leaving that mountain to the left, and flows due north past Amol to the Caspian. Its length is about 120 m. The Gurgan rises on the Armutlu plateau in Khorasan east of Astarabad, and enters the Caspian in 37° 4' N., north-west of Astarabad, after a course of about 200 m. The Atrek rises a few miles from Kuchan and enters the Caspian at the Bay of Hassan Kuli in 37° 21' N., after a course of about 300 M. From the sea to the Russian frontier post of Chat the river forms the frontier between Persia and the Russian Transcaspian region. The drainage of the rivers which have no outlet to the sea and form inland lakes and swamps (kavir) may be estimated at 350,000 sq. m., including the drainage of Lake Urmia, which is about 20,000 sq. m. Fourteen rivers flow into the lake: the Aji Chai, Safi Chai, Murdi Chai and Jaghatu from the east, the Tatau (Tatava) from the south, and nine smaller rivers from the west. During heavy rains and when the snows on the hills melt, thousands of streams flow from all directions into the innumerable depressions of inner Persia, or help to swell the perennial rivers which have no outlet to the sea. These latter are few in number, and some of them barely suffice for purposes of agricultural irrigation, and in summer dwindle down to small rills. The perennial streams which help to form the kavirs (salt swamps) east of Kum and Kashan are the Hableh-rud, rising east of Demavend, the Jajrud,
End of Article: PERSIA

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