ELBURZ, or Alburz (from O. Pers. Hara-bere-zaiti, the "High Mountain"), a great chain of mountains in northern Persia, separating the Caspian depression from the Persian highlands, and extending without any break for 650 m. from the western shore of the Caspian Sea to north-eastern Khorasan. According to the direction, or strike, of its principal ranges the Elburz may be divided into three sections: the first 120 m. in length with a direction nearly N. to S., the second 240 m. in length with a direction N.W. to S.E., and the third 290 m. in length striking S.W. to N.E. The first section, which is connected with the system of the Caucasus, and begins west of Lenkoran in 39° N. and 45° E., is known as the Talish range and has several peaks 9000 to 10,000 ft. in height. It runs almost parallel to the western shore of the Caspian, and west of Astara is only 10 or 12 m. distant from the sea. At the point west of Resht, where the direction of the principal range changes to one of N.W. to S.E., the second section of the Elburz begins, and extends from there to beyond Mount Demavend, east of Teheran. South of Resht this section is broken through at almost a right angle by the Safid Rud (White river), and along it runs the principal commercial road between the Caspian and inner Persia, Resht-Kazvin-Teheran. The Elburz then splits into three principal ranges running parallel to one another and connected at many places by secondary ranges and spurs. Many peaks of the ranges in this section have an altitude of 11,000 to 13,000 ft., and the elevation of the passes leading over the ranges varies between 7000 and 10,000 ft. The highest peaks are situated in the still unexplored district of Talikan, N.W. of Teheran, and thence eastwards to beyond Mount Demavend. The part of the Elburz immediately north of Teheran is known as the Kuh i Shimran (mountain of Shimran, from the name of the Shimran district on its southern slopes) and culminates in the Sar i Tochal (12,600 ft.). Beyond it, and between the border of Talikan in the N.W. and Mount Demavend in the N.E., are the ranges Azadbur, Kasil, Kachang, Kendevan, Shahzad, Varzeh, Derbend i Sar and others, with elevations of 12,000 to 13,500 ft., while Demavend towers above them all with its altitude of 19,400 ft. The eastern foot of Demavend is washed by the river Herhaz (called Lar river in its upper course), which there breaks through the Elburz in a S.-N. direction in its course to the Caspian, past the city of Amol. The third section of the Elburz, with its principal ranges striking S.W. to N.E., has a length of about 290 m., and ends some distance beyond Bujnurd in northern Khorasan, where it joins the Ala Dagh range, which has a direction to the S.E., and, continuing with various appellations to northern Afghanistan, unites with the Paropamisus. For about two-thirds of its length - from its beginning to Khush Yailak - the third section consists of three principal ranges connected by lateral ranges and spurs. It also has many peaks over 10,000 ft. in height, and the Nizva mountain on the southern border of the unexplored district of Hazarjirib, north of Semnan, and the Shahkuh, between Shahrud and Astarabad, have an elevation exceeding 13,000 ft. Beyond Khush Yailak (meaning "pleasant summer quarters"), with an elevation of 10,000 ft., are the Kuh i Buhar (8000) and Kuh i Suluk (8000), which latter joins the Ala Dagh (11,000).

The northern slopes of the Elburz and the lowlands which lie between them and the Caspian, and together form the provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran and Astarabad, are covered with dense forest and traversed by hundreds (Persian writers say 1362) of perennial rivers and streams. The breadth of the lowlands between the foot of the hills and the sea is from 2 to 25 m., the greatest breadth being in the meridian of Resht in Gilan, and in the districts of Amol, Sari and Barfurush in Mazandaran. The inner slopes and ranges of the Elburz south of the principal watershed, generally the central one of the three principal ranges which are outside of the fertilizing influence of the moisture brought from the sea, have little or no natural vegetation, and those farthest south are, excepting a few stunted cypresses, completely arid and bare.

"North of the principal watershed forest trees and general verdure refresh the eye. Gurgling water, strips of sward and tall forest trees, backed by green hills, make a scene completely unlike the usual monotony of Persian landscape. The forest scenery much resembles that of England, with fine oaks and greensward. South of the watershed the whole aspect of the landscape is as hideous and disappointing as scenery in Afghanistan. Ridge after ridge of bare hill and curtain behind curtain of serrated mountain, certainly sometimes of charming greys and blues, but still all bare and naked, rugged and arid" ("Beresford Lovett, Proc. R.G.S., Feb. 1883).

The higher ranges of the Elburz are snow-capped for the greater part of the year, and some, which are not exposed to the refracted heat from the arid districts of inner Persia, are rarely without snow. Water is plentiful in the Elburz, and situated in well-watered valleys and gorges are innumerable flourishing villages, embosomed in gardens and orchards, with extensive cultivated fields and meadows, and at higher altitudes small plateaus, under snow until March or April, afford cool camping grounds to the nomads of the plains, and luxuriant grazing to their sheep and cattle during the summer.

(A. H.-S.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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