ĀSTĀNA, town and district in the province of Gilān. The town, also called Āstāna-ye ašrafiya, is located at lat 37°16′ N, long 49°57′ E, along the highway between Rasht and Lāhijān and approximately 2 miles to the east of its crossing of the Safidrud. Āstāna, although only a small community, is of regional importance because of the Emāmzāda Čenār Pādšāh. This shrine, established under the Safavids and constructed with a Chinese-style wooden roof and remodeled as well as enlarged in recent years, attracts annually increasing numbers of pilgrims from all parts of Gilān and Māzandarān. Especially during the month of Moḥarram it is one of the most important centers of pilgrimage in northern Iran with processions, passion plays (taʿzia), and other religious activities. This fact as well as the favorable location of the town in the middle of a rich agricultural region have contributed to its emergence as one of the major business locations in northern Iran. The fact that Moḥammad Moʿin (see FARHANG-E MOʿĪN) was born and buried in Āstāna contributes to its reputation.
As a result of this growing importance, Āstāna, the center of a sub-district (baḵš) within the district (šahrestān) of Lāhijān since Reza Shah’s reign (see the map in Razmārā), was promoted in 1971 to the position of center of a new šahrestān, by grouping the two sub-districts of Āstāna and Ḥasankiā-deh, with an area of 356 km² and a population of 83,595 in 1976 (Markaz, 1976). The town’s population grew from 16,689 in 1976 to 36,298 in 2006. In the latter year, the šahrestān as a whole—the area of which had been increased to 417 km² through an administrative reform in 1998—had a population of 108,017, yielding the very high density of 259 persons per km²; this includes the coastal township of Ḥasankiā-deh, which was renamed Bandar-e Farahnāz in the late Pahlavi era and Kiā-šahr after the Islamic Revolution. Its population is 13,762 (urban) and 57,957 (rural; Markaz, 2006).
In all the villages of the šahrestān, paddy cultivation is prevalent, often to the point of a quasi-monoculture, modernized by generalized use of motor tiller instead of the traditional gājeme-type plow (Bazin and Bromberger, pp. 18-19; see BERENJ) and giving a first-quality rice, with a cultivated area of 15,076 ha and a production of 43,813 tons in 1986 (Balai, p. 172). In the early 20th century, however, hemp, flax, and wheat, as well as melons, watermelons, and pumpkins, were also cultivated in these settlements. As for sericulture, it remained an important activity until the mid-1990s: in 1973, Āstāna was the third silkworm-breeding area in Gilān after Langarud and Lāhijān (see ABRIŠAM ii), but sericulture has suffered since then, due to the low quality of seeds and to international competition. A number of complementary products are common throughout the district: vegetables and herbs, plantations of poplars, and a highly developed pisciculture. Others are local specializations, such as peanuts (bādām-e zamini) cultivation between Noqra-deh and Kiā-šahr, and buffalo raising in a few settlements with a Kurdish population (see GILAN xiv. ETHNIC GROUPS).
Although this micro-region is relatively rich, most farmers are obliged to have recourse to poly-activity to make a living. Hunting waterfowls, either with nets or with snares, is traditionally important in the region; in its ponds and marshes many bird species find their permanent or seasonal habitat. Peasants also fish for carp (kopur) and surmullet (māhi-e safid, Rutilus friskii kutum), among other species, using sweeping-nets called sali in ponds and marshes or putting temporary dams across the rivers. Along the shore, sea fishing is conducted through two quite different organizations. (1) Fisheries for catching sturgeons and extracting caviar belong to the public Iran Fishery Company (šilāt). Kiā-šahr is the seat of Section (nāḥia)2 of eleven local fishing stations, six of which are located on the shore of the Safidrud delta in the limits of Āstāna district. (2) Cooperative societies (šerkat-e taʿāwoni-e māhigiri) for catching scaly fish such as māhi-e safid use a seine, pulled formerly by two teams of fishermen and nowadays by two tractors. Before the 1980s, sea fishing was mainly in the hands of Āzaris from Ardabil or of refugees from Soviet Azerbaijan (in the sturgeon fisheries) and from Ḵalḵāl (in the cooperative societies; see Gilan. Ethnic Groups; Vieille and Nabavi; Bazin, II, pp. 131-39). More recently, however, these activities have seen a gradual “Gilānization” process.
The main meeting places are the weekly markets, on Mondays and Thursdays in Āstāna and on Wednesdays in Kiā-šahr (Thorpe). This coastal town and its surroundings have become a source of tourist attraction regionally and nationally. Beside its lively market, it has a famous emāmzāda, that of Sayyed Abu Jaʿfar, and the Bujāq natural park in the vicinity. Many people from Tehran have built country houses along the coast and even in nearby inland villages, causing a construction boom, while affluent farmers emigrate to the main cities and leave their holdings to the peasants coming from the highlands of Gilān.
S. Balai, Aménagement hydro-agricole, développement de la région rurale de Roudsar (Guilan Oriental, Iran), Ph.D. diss., University of Paris I, 1991.
M. Bazin, Le Tâlech, une région ethnique au nord de l’Iran, 2 vols., Paris, 1980.
Idem and C. Bromberger, Gilân et Âzarbâyjân oriental. Cartes et documents ethnographiques, Paris 1982.
Markaz-e Āmār-e Irān, Saršomāri-e ‘omumi-e nofus o maskan [decennial national census], Tehran, 1966-2006
Ḥ.-ʿA. Razmārā, Farhang-e joḡrāfiāʾi-e Irān II. Ostān-e yekom, Tehran, 1950.
J. K. Thorpe, “Cyclic Markets and Central Place Systems: The Changing Temporal and Locational Spacing of Markets in the Caspian Littoral of Iran”, in E. Ehlers, ed., Beiträge zur Kulturgeographie des islamischen Orients (Marbirger Geographische Schriften, 78), Marburg, 1979, pp. 83-110.
P. Vieille and I. Nabavi, “Les pêcheries de la Caspienne et les migrations saisonnières du Khal-Khal,” Revue de Géographie de Lyon 45/2, 1970, pp. 139-62.
(Eckart Ehlers, Marcel Bazin, and Christian Bromberger)
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 17, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 8, p. 837