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Lake Urmia near Urmia city.

Urmia or Orumieh (Azeri: اورمو, '; ; ; , during the majority of the Pahlavi Dynasty [1925–1979] called , ), is a city in Northwestern Iranmarker and the capital of West Azerbaijan Province. The city lies on an altitude of 1,330 m above sea level on the Shahar Chaye river (City River). Urmia is the 10th most populated city in Iranmarker with a population of about 600,000.

Urmia is situated on a fertile plain called Urmia Plain, on western side of Lake Urmiamarker and eastern side of Turkishmarker border and marginal range of mountains.

Urmia is the trade center for a fertile agricultural region where fruit (Specially Apple and Grape) and Tobacco are grown. An important town by the 9th cent., Urmia was seized by the Oghuz Turks (11th cent.), sacked by the Seljuk Turks (1184), and later occupied a number of times by the Ottoman Turks. Urmia was the seat of the first U.S. Christian mission in Iran (1835). Around 1900 Christians made up more than 40% of the city's population, however, most of the Christians fled in 1918.


The name Urmia is thought to have come from Sumerian tongue, the earliest known civilization in the world located in southern Mesopotamia. Urmarker was a principle Sumerian city. Some believe the name is derived from Syriac. Ur, meaning "cradle," and mia, meaning "water." Hence, Urmia, situated by a lake and surrounded by rivers, would be the cradle of water. Some have claimed connections to other languages. There is, however, no generally accepted etymology.



The city of Urmia (Orumiyeh), in northwest of Iranmarker, 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 civilization under 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 Mad empire after its formation.

All and all, according to historical documents, the western part of the Urmia Lakemarker has been a center of attention of the prehistoric nations, the evidence of which are the numerous ancient hills in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 Minormarker, and Iran Plateau.

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 Bethlehemmarker for Christ’s birth indicate that the city has been one of the largest religious and scientific centers of the ancient times.

Urmia, according to some historians, is believed to be the birthplace of the prophet Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism.The Columbia Encyclopedia 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. Due to Urmia's relatively large Christian population growth by the end of the 19th century, Urmia also became the seat of the first Americanmarker Christian mission in Iran in 1835. Another mission soon became operational in nearby Tabrizmarker as well.The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions Urmia as the seat of a Chaldean diocese.





The "Provincial Geographical Dictionary of Iran" (Teheran, 2001). provides a figure of 85.7% for the Azeris and 10.5% for the Kurds in the city today.Allegedly a Russian author would have called these findings "ludicrous".

The city has been home to various ethnic groups during its long history. For this reason, the demographics of the city have undergone numerous changes. Some historical documents show that at the beginning of the 20th century, the city's population had a significant Christian minority (Assyrians and Armenians). According to Macuch, and Ishaya, the city was the spiritual capital of the Assyrians from 1830 to the end of World War I by the influence of four Christian missions. Some of the Assyrians and Armenians left the region in 1914 after battles between the Russianmarker and Ottoman armies which led to a shift in the city's demographics. During the era of Reza Shah Pahlavi, Iranian Assyrians were invited to return to the region and several thousand did return.

There are claims by Kurdish nationalists that there would be no trustworthy statistics on the ethnic composition of the city or "all that is available are just estimates, and often not so educated."



  • Natural History Museum - Displays the animals native to the vicinity of Urmia.
  • Urmia Museum - Archaeological museum affiliated with the faculty of Shahid Beheshti University.


Higher Education

Urmia was an important center for higher education approximately a century ago, indeed, medical faculty of Urmia which was built by Joseph Cochran and a team of American medical associates in 1878, is the first University of iran. Unfortunately the faculty became shut down even before establishment of first official university of iran, University of Tehran.

Nowadays Urmia has become a considerable educational city. The city owns state and private universities and institutes listed below.

Universities in Urmia:
University Web Site
Urmia University [65270]
Urmia University of Medical Sciences [65271]
Urmia University of Technology [65272]
Islamic Azad University of Urmia [65273]
Payame Noor University of Urmia [65274]
Elmi Karbordi University of Urmia
University College of Azarabadegan

Research Centers


  • Central Library of Urmia
  • Shahid Bahonar Library
  • Library of I.R.Iran Education Ministry
  • Library of Urmia Cultural and Artistical Center
  • Allame Tabatabayee Library
  • Library of Khane-ye-Javan

See also


  1. "Urmia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. 14 May. 2009 [1]
  2. Urmia (Urumiyeh), the Cradle of Civilization - CAIS ARCHAEOLOGICAL & CULTURAL NEWS©
  3. Looklex Encyclopaedia [2]
  4. Urmia | Urmia Information | HighBeam Research - FREE Trial
  5. E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, By Martijn Theodoor Houtsma, M. Th. Houtsma, T. W. Arnold, A. J. Wensinck, Contributor M. Th. Houtsma, R. Hartmann, T. W. Arnold, page 1033, Published by BRILL, 1993, ISBN 9004097961, 9789004097964
  6. Catholic Encyclopedia: Urmiah
  7. فرهنگ جغرافیایی شهرستانهای کشور، شهرستان ارومیه، انتشارات سازمان جغرافیایی نیروهای مسلح، تهران ۱۳۷۹ ص۲۳۹.
  8. S.I. Bruk, Narody Peredney Azii (1960); S.I. Bruk, and V. S. Apenchenko, Atlas Narodov Mira (Moscow: Academy of Science, 1964); A. Gabriel, Religionsgeographie von Persien (Vienna, 1971).
  9. Urmia,” The Columbia On Line Encyclopedia.
  10. Macuch, and Ishaya "Assyrians" , Encyclopaedia Iranica [3]

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