1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Astarabad
ASTARABAD, a province of Persia bounded N. by the Caspian Sea and Russian Transcaspian, S. by the Elburz Mountains, W. by Mazandaran, and E. by Khorasan. The country, mountainous in its southern portion, possesses extensive forests, fertile valleys, producing rice, wheat and other grains in abundance, and rich pasturages. The soil, even with little culture, is exceedingly productive, owing to the abundance of water which irrigates and fertilizes it. But while the province in many parts presents a landscape of luxuriant beauty, it is a prey to the ravages of disease, principally malarial fevers due to the extensive swamps formed by waters stagnating in the forests, and to the frequent incursions of the Goklan and Yomut Turkomans, who have their camping-grounds in the northern part of the province, and until about 1890 plundered caravans sometimes at the very gates of Astarabad city, and carried people off into slavery and bondage. The province has a population of about 100,000 and pays a yearly revenue of about £30,000. The inhabitants, notwithstanding the unhealthiness of their climate, are a strong and athletic race, belying their yellow and sickly appearance. The province has the following bulúk (administrative divisions):—(1) Astarabad town; (2) Astarabad rustak (villages); (3) Sadan rustak; (4). Anazan; (5) Katúl; (6) Findarisk, with Kuhsar and Nodeh; (7) Shahkuh Sávar.
Astarabad, the capital of the province, is situated on the Astar, a small tributary of the Kara Su (Black river), which flows into the Caspian Sea 20 m. W. of the city, and about 18 m. S. of the Gurgan river, in 36° 51′ N. lat. and 54° 26′ E. long. It is surrounded by a mud wall about 30 ft. in height and about 312 m. in circuit, but much of the enclosed space is occupied by gardens, mounds of refuse, and ruins. At one time of greater size, it was reduced by Nadir Shah within its present limits. Astarabad owes its origin to Yazid ibn Mohallab, who occupied the province early in the 8th century for Suleiman, the seventh of the Omayyad caliphs (715–717), and was destroyed by Timur (Tamerlane) in 1384. Jonas Hanway, the philanthropist (d. 1786), visited the place in 1744, and attempted to open a direct trade through it between Europe and central Asia. Owing to the noxious exhalations of the surrounding forests the town is so extremely unhealthy during the hot weather as to have acquired the title of the “Abode of the Plague.” It has post and telegraph offices, and a population of about 10,000. Since 1890 the Turkomans who impeded trade by their perpetual raids have been kept more in check, and with the decrease of insecurity the commercial activity of Astarabad has increased considerably.