Qazvin is the capital of the Qazvin Province, west of Tehran. Qazvin was the capital of the Safavid dynasty for over forty years (1555-1598) and nowadays is known as the calligraphy capital of Iran. It is famous for its Baghlava sweets, carpet patterns, poets, political newspaper and Pahlavi influence on its accent.
Located 150 km west of Tehran, in the Qazvin Province, it has a cold but dry climate, due to its position south of the rugged Alborz range.
The earliest remains of prehistoric humans have been discovered in a cave called Qaleh Kurd where archaeologists discovered a Neanderthal tooth. Archaeological findings in the Qazvin plain reveal urban agricultural settlements for at least nine millennia. Qazvin geographically connects Tehran, Isfahan, and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian seacoast and Asia Minor, giving it a strategic location throughout the ages.
The city today known as Qazvin is thought to have been founded by Shapur II, King of Persia in 350 CE, under the name Shad Shahpur (shad means ‘happy’ in Farsi), when he built a fortification there to control regional tensions.
Qazvin has sometimes been of central importance at major moments of Iranian history. It was captured by invading Arabs (644 AD) and destroyed by Hulagu Khan (13th century). After the Ottoman capture of Tabriz, Shah Tahmasp (1524–1576) made Qazvin the capital of the Safavid empire (founded in 1501 AD), a status that Qazvin retained for half a century until Shah Abbas I moved the capital to Isfahan.
In 1210 the city was damaged by the forces of the Kingdom of Georgia sent by Tamar the Great, as per the retribution for destroying Georgian-controlled Ani by the Muslim forces that left 12,000 Christians dead.
In the 19th century, Qazvin flourished as a centre of trade because the only all-year accessible road from the Caspian Sea to the Highland started here and with enhanced traffic on the Caspian Sea the trade volume grew. Its bazaars were enlarged. In the middle of the century, the Babi movement had one of its centres here and the first massacre of Babis occurred in Qazvin in 1847.
In the second half of the 19th century, Qazvin was one of the centres of Russian presence in northern Iran. A detachment of the Persian Cossack Brigade under Russian officers was stationed here. From 1893 this was the headquarters of the Russian Company for Road construction in Persia which connected Qazvin by roads to Tehran and Hamadan. The company built a hospital and the St. Nicolas Church.
In 1920 Qazvin was used as a base for the British Norperforce. The 1921 Persian coup d’état that led to the rise of the Pahlavi dynasty was launched from Qazvin.
Qazvin has been one of the main pivots on which Persia’s history has revolved and this is where its reputation as an impenetrable fortress originates. During the fall of the Safavids, Qazvin was the centre of Persians reunion for the liberation of Persian territories invaded by Ottoman, Russian, and Afghan forces in the west, north, and east, respectively. The deployed swordsmen from Qazvin not only retrieved Safavid boundaries but also contributed to their expansion up to China (east), Daghestan (north) and Baghdad (west) by Nader Shah. Similarly, Qazvin hosted the base of Assassins (Hassan-e Sabbah followers) and was the training centre of the Nehzat-e Jangal (The Jungle Movement) revolutionaries.