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Total population
(3[1] to 4 million[2] (2006))
Regions with significant populations
Provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan in Iran
Gilaki, Persian
Mostly Shi'a Muslim
Related ethnic groups
other peoples of Iran, Peoples of the Caucasus

The Gilani people or Gilaks (Gilaki:گیلک) are an Iranian people native to the northern Iran province of Gilan. Gilaks, along with the closely related Mazandarani people[citation needed], comprise part of the Caspian people, who inhabit the southern and southwestern coastal regions of the Caspian Sea.[3]

They speak the Gilaki language, which is closely related to Mazandarani[citation needed]. The Mazandarani people once called their language Geleki or Gilaki, but now call it Mazani or Mazandarani, from the name of their province.[4][dubious ]



Gilani people live both alongside the Alborz mountains, and in the surrounding plains. Consequentially, those living along the northern side of the Alborz mountains tend to raise livestock, while those living in the plains farm. Gilaks play an important role in provincial and national economy, supplying a large portion of the region's agricultural staples, such as rice, grains,[5] tobacco,[6] and tea.[7] Other major industries include fishing and caviar exports, and the production of silk.[3][8] In addition to agricultural activities, Gilaks also control other principal sectors of commerce of the province of Gilan such as tourism, and share administrative and government positions with civil servants from other regions of Iran.


The population of Gilani people is estimated to be between 3[1] to 4 million[2] (2006 estimation) They mainly live along the southwest coasts of the Caspian Sea. The Gilaki are closely related to the neighboring Mazandarani, and other groups of Caucasus decent, such as Georgians, Armenians, and Azeris.[1][9][10]


The Gilaki language, is a member of the Northwestern branch of the Iranian languages. It is the main language spoken amongst the Gilaki people, although various regional and local dialects of the Gilaki language are common.[11] Gilaks people are fluent in both the Gilaki dialect and standard Persian.[12] Persian is the official language of education in Iran, and since teachers are discouraged from using regional dialects and accents in class,[13] the Gilaki dialect is taught to children at home.

The Gilaki and Mazandarani languages (but not other Iranian languages) share certain typological features with Caucasian languages.[14][15] However, with the growth of education and press, the differentiation between Gilaki and other Iranian dialects are likely to disappear.[12] Gilaki is closely related to Mazandarani and the two dialects have similar vocabularies.[12] These two dialects retain more than Persian does of the noun declension system that was characteristic of older-Iranian languages.[12]


The Gilaks and their closely related Mazandarani occupy the South Caspian region of Iran and speak languages belonging to the North-Western branch of Iranian languages. It has been suggested that their ancestors came from the Caucasus region, perhaps displacing an earlier group in the South Caspian.[16] Linguistic evidence supports this scenario, in that the Gilaki and Mazandarani languages (but not other Iranian languages) share certain typological features with Caucasian languages.[16] There have been patterns analyzed of mtDNA and Y chromosome variation in the Gilaki and Mazandarani.

Based on mtDNA HV1 sequences, the Gilaks and Mazandarani most closely resemble their geographic and linguistic neighbors, namely other Iranian groups. However, their Y chromosome types most closely resemble those found in groups from the South Caucasus.[16] A scenario that explains these differences is a south Caucasian origin for the ancestors of the Gilani and Mazandarani, followed by introgression of women (but not men) from local Iranian groups, possibly because of patrilocality.[16] Given that both mtDNA and language are maternally transmitted, the incorporation of local Iranian women would have resulted in the concomitant replacement of the ancestral Caucasian language and mtDNA types of the Gilani and Mazandarani with their current Iranian language and mtDNA types. Concomitant replacement of language and mtDNA may be a more general phenomenon than previously recognized.

The Mazandarani and Gilani groups fall inside a major cluster consisting of populations from the Caucasus and West Asia and are particularly close to the South Caucasus groups—Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis. Iranians from Tehran and Isfahan are situated more distantly from these groups.[16]


The Gilaks display a high frequency of Y-DNA haplogroups R1a1a, J2a, J1, and G2a3b.[17]

Assimilated groups into the Gilak people

In the Safavid, Afsharid, and Qajar era Gilan was settled by large numbers of Georgians, Circassians, Armenians and other Peoples of the Caucasus, whose descendants still live across Gilan.[18][19]

Gilaks in Iran

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Colbert C. Held; John Cummings; Mildred McDonald Held (2005). Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics. p. 119.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Iran Provinces".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bazin, Marcel, “GĪLĀN”, Encyclopædia Iranica, X/VI, pp. 617-25; available online at (accessed online at 19 August 2014).
  4. C.S. Coon, "Iran:Demography and Ethnography" in Encycloapedia of Islam, Volume IV, E.J. Brill, pp. 8, 10. Excerpt: "The Lurs speak an aberrant form of Archaic Persian" See maps also on page 10 for distribution of Persian languages and dialect Kathryn M. Coughlin, "Muslim cultures today: a reference guide," Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. p. 89: "...Iranians speak Persian or a Persian dialect such as Gilaki or Mazandarani"
  5. M. ʿAṭāʾī, “Gozāreš-e eqteṣādī dar bāra-ye berenj-e Gīlān wa sāyer-e ḡallāt-e ān/Economic Report on Rice and Other Cereals in Gilan,” Taḥqīqāt-e eqteṣādī 2/5-6, 1342 Š., pp. 64-148 (Pers. ed.), 1963, pp. 32-53 (Eng. ed.).
  6. Idem, “La culture du tabac dans le Gilân,” Stud. Ir. 9/1, 1980, pp. 121-30.
  7. Ehlers, “Die Teelandschaft von Lahidjan/Nordiran,” in Beiträge zur Geographie der Tropen and Subtropen. Festschrift für Herbert Wilhelmy, Tübingen, 1970, pp. 229-42.
  8. Carré; Rostami; Bazin, 1980, II, pp. 129-37;
  9. "The Mazandarani and Gilaki groups fall inside a major cluster consisting of populations from the Caucasus and West Asia and are particularly close to the South Caucasus groups—Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanians". Retrieved 4 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Iran, Encarta Encyclopedia Iran. Archived 2009-10-31.
  11. Bazin, Marcel, “GĪLĀN”, Encyclopædia Iranica, X/VI, pp. 617-25; available online at online at 19 August 2014).
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Borjan, "Dictionary of Languages"
  13. "Education in Iran". WENR.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. The Tati language group in the sociolinguistic context of Northwestern Iran and Transcaucasia By D.Stilo, pages 137-185
  15. Academic American Encyclopedia By Grolier Incorporated, page 294
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 "Concomitant Replacement of Language and mtDNA in South Caspian Populations of Iran". Retrieved 4 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Grugni V, Battaglia V, Hooshiar Kashani B, Parolo S, Al-Zahery N, et al. (2012) Ancient Migratory Events in the Middle East: New Clues from the Y-Chromosome Variation of Modern Iranians. PLoS ONE 7(7): e41252.
  18. "Georgian communities in Persia". Retrieved 17 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. ^ Muliani, S. (2001) Jaygah-e Gorjiha dar Tarikh va Farhang va Tammadon-e Iran. Esfahan: Yekta [The Georgians’ position in the Iranian history and civilization]