Historically, much of the city's importance has resulted from its strategic position for trade to the north (now the nations of Commonwealth of Independent States) and to the west (now Turkey). Tabriz, then known as Tauris, was (3d cent. AD) the capital of Armenia under King Tiridates III. It was sacked by the Oghuz Turks c.1029, but by 1054, when it was captured by the Seljuk Turks, Tabriz had recovered and was a provincial capital.
In 1295, Ghazan Khan, the Mongol ruler of Persia, made it the chief administrative center of an empire stretching from Egypt to the Oxus River (Amu Darya) and from the Caucasus to the Indian Ocean. Under his rule new walls were built around the city, and numerous public buildings, educational facilities, and caravansaries were erected. Tabriz was captured by Timur in the late 14th cent., and Shah Ismail made it the capital of his empire from 1501 until his defeat (1514) by the Ottoman Turks.
The Ottomans occupied Tabriz on a number of occasions thereafter, including the period from 1585 to 1603. Nevertheless, by the 17th cent. it was a major commercial center, carrying on trade with Turkey, Russia, central Asia, and India. Later, the city was again occupied (1724–30) by the Ottomans, and it was held by Russia in 1827–28. Tabriz played an important part in the Persian constitutional movement at the beginning of the 20th cent. After World War II it was the scene of a revolution led by the leftist Tudeh party, and a Tudeh regime, which had the support of the Soviet Union, held power for a few months in 1946.
The city has often been devastated by earthquakes (e.g., in 858, 1041, and 1721) and has few historical remains; of these, the most important are the beautiful Blue Mosque (15th cent.) and the Ark, or Ali Shah, Mosque (14th cent.), whose walls are 85 ft (25.9 m) high. Tabriz is the site of a university (founded 1946) and the Azerbaijan Museum.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Iranian Political Geography