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Shahrdari Square in Rasht

The clock in Shahrdari (Municipality) Square jolts its hands out of inertia. A chime resonates in the square and instantly everything comes to a stasis. Wooden carriages lacerate the transparent flesh of the mist and slither forward like haunted ships until they prop their aged weight in a corner. Here come the ambassadors of darkness, angles of the night.

“Ebi Eshghi” fills the first cup of tea and puts it next to the statue of Mirza*. The hot steam mingles with the mist and breaks the chill of the night. As Mirza opens his eyes, so does the forest and the night begins.


The late-night tale of Rasht begins in Shahrdari Square, then whirls through the smog of the local kebab houses and the fountain pool of Sabze Meidan only to return to the Square of Shahrdari. Rasht has a circular shape and as a result wherever you go you will end up in Shahrdari Square. The buildings around the square were constructed during the rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi. Baladieh (old name for municipality) was founded in 1907 and was renovated later in 1926. The architecture of the buildings around Shahrdari Square echoes the old architecture of Russian cities in particular that of Saint Petersburg. The building of municipality is the work of Armenian architect, Artem Sardarof who later joined the municipality of Rasht as an employee.


The first mayor who set foot in the building of municipality was Haj Mirza Khalil Mashrutehchi. Caught in one of the most tumultuous times in history, Rasht was the arena of antagonism between Constitutionalists, Mirza’s troops, Bolsheviks and supporters of Reza Shah who alternately conquered and lost the city. The foundation of the building of municipality was a turning point in the modern development of Rasht.


The first landmark of the new city was Shahrdari Square. Other historic edifices built there include Gilan Post Office Headquarters and the old building of Iran Hotel. The Central Library of Rasht which is next door to the municipality is named after Mirza Kuchik Khan. Wherever you turn in Rasht, you will come across his name, his images and his statues.


Prior to the construction of the Cultural Promenade in 2016, the statue of Mirza stood at the center of the square. But now Mirza’s statue is installed in a corner, vaguely visible in the photos taken by the tourists; his head though is still towards the north. Old men spend the murky nights of Rasht next to the statue of Mirza, remembering the spring of their lives in the city’s heydays when Shahrdari Square welcomed their vigorous complexions every morning. Those even more smitten with the long-gone light of the youth, leaf through Mirror in Mirror, a book of poetry by Rasht’s arch poet, Sayeh*, and recite a poem. The poem is called “Unfinished”. It is the continuation of Sayeh’s most celebrated poem “Gallia” *. Today Rasht is completely transformed and is barely reminiscent of its momentous past. Longing for that glorious past, the old man recites Sayeh’s mournful lines:


No sign of our home

Who are these people?

Building abodes on our ruins


* Mirza Kuchik Khan (1880-1921) an Iranian revolutionary and nationalist who gathered a local army in the forests of the north and fought the government. He was finally murdered by the troops of Reza Shah Pahlavi. He has a special place in the hearts of the people of north as a local and national hero.

*Amir Hushang Ebtehaj Gilani (1928-) Iranian poet born in Rasht better recognized in Iran by his pen name H. E. Sayeh.

*An Armenian girl who inspired many of Sayeh’s early love poems. However, the two were never united.  

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7/29/2017 6:02:21 PM

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