Gilaki people

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Gilaki people
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 whose homeland is the Gilan Province in northern Iran. Along with the closely related Mazandarani people, the Gilaki comprise one of the Caspian people, inhabiting the southern coastal region of the Caspian Sea. They speak the Gilaki language, which is closely related to Mazandarani. The Mazandarani people call their language Geleki or Gilaki but more recently call it Mazani or Mazandarani from the name of their province.[3]

In Gilan, Gilaks produce the main regional resources namely rice, and in the past, silk, and the principal sectors of commerce is under their control and they share administration positions with civil servants from the inland Iran. Gilaks live in both plain and mountain regions. Those living in the northern side of the Alborz mountains are specialized in breeding cows and sheep, occupy a peripheral position in the region.


The population of Gilani people is estimated to be between 3[1] to 4 million[2] (2006 estimation) They are mainly living in the southwest of the Caspian Sea coasts. The Gilaki and their neighboring Mazandarani, are both closely related to particular other people of Iran, and Caucasus peoples, especially the Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijani.[1][4][5]


Main article: Gilaki language

The Gilaki language, which belongs to Northwestern Iranian languages, is spoken among these people and most Gilani people are fluent in both Gilaki dialect and standard Persian.[6] The Gilaki and Mazandarani languages (but not other Iranian languages) share certain typological features with Caucasian languages, of wich Tat is one of them.[7][8] However, with the growth of education and press, the differentiation between Gilaki and other Iranian dialects are likely to disappear.[6] Gilaki is closely related to Mazandarani and the two dialects have similar vocabularies.[6] These two dialects retain more than Persian does of the noun declension system that was characteristic of older-Iranian languages.[6]


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.[9] Linguistic evidence supports this scenario, in that the Gilaki and Mazandarani languages (but not other Iranian languages) share certain typological features with Caucasian languages.[9] 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.[9] 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.[9] 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 Azerbaijani's. Iranians from Tehran and Isfahan are situated more distantly from these groups.[9]


The Gilaks display a high frequency of Y-DNA haplogroups R1a1a, J2a, J1, and G2a3b.[10]

Assimilated groups into the Gilak people[edit]

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.[11][12]

Major Ethnic Groups of Iran

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Colbert C. Held; John Cummings; Mildred McDonald Held (2005). Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics. p. 119. 
  2. ^ a b Iran Provinces
  3. ^ 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"
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ Iran, Encarta Encyclopedia Iran. Archived 2009-10-31.
  6. ^ a b c d Borjan, "Dictionary of Languages"
  7. ^ The Tati language group in the sociolinguistic context of Northwestern Iran and Transcaucasia By D.Stilo, pages 137-185
  8. ^ Academic American Encyclopedia By Grolier Incorporated, page 294
  9. ^ a b c d e "Concomitant Replacement of Language and mtDNA in South Caspian Populations of Iran". Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Georgian communities in Persia". Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  12. ^ ^ 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]