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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The local trade of Azerbaijan is insignificant

The handsomest and richest districts of Persia, but not the healthiest, are undoubtedly the northern ones on the Caspian Sea, or bordering on Russian territory, such as Mazanderan, Astrabad, and Azerbaijan. In the first two, rice is grown in large quantities, castor-oil, wheat, cotton and barley; and in Mazanderan extensive pasturages are found on the hills for sheep; but not so in Astrabad, which, owing to its peculiar formation, is exposed to broiling heat on the sandy wastes, and to terrific cold on the mountains, but has a fairly temperate climate in the southern portion of the province. These--if the production of silk is excepted--are mostly agricultural districts. At one time Mazanderan had beautiful forests which are now fast being destroyed. Considerable bartering is carried on between the towns and the nomad tribes, in rugs, carpets, horses and mules, against grain, rice, felts and woollen cloths of local manufacture.

Azerbaijan, the most northern province of Persia, with Tabriz as a centre, is very rich in agricultural products, particularly in rice and wheat. Notwithstanding the severe climate in winter, when the snowfall is rather heavy, and the thermometer down to 20 deg. below zero centigrade in February, there are good vineyards in the neighbourhood of Tabriz, and most excellent vegetables and fruit. Tobacco is successfully grown (and manufactured for the pipe and into cigarettes). The heat in summer is intense, with hot winds and dust storms; but owing to the altitude (4,420 feet at Tabriz) the nights are generally cool. In the spring there are torrential rains, and also towards the end of the autumn, but the months of May, June, October and November are quite pleasant.

The local trade of Azerbaijan is insignificant, but being on the Russian border the transit trade has of late assumed large proportions, and is increasing fast. The importation, for instance, of Turkey-reds by Russia is growing daily, and also the importation of silk, in cocoons and manufactured, velvet, woollen goods, various cotton goods, raw wool, dyes (such as henna, indigo, cochineal and others), and sugar, the principal import of all. With the exception of tea, indigo and cochineal, which come from India, the imports into Azerbaijan come almost altogether from Russia, Turkey, Austria-Hungary and France. The Russian trade in sugar is enormous from this quarter.

The carpet trade, which at one time seemed to be dying out, is now about to enter on a prosperous phase; but not so the wool-weaving, which does not go beyond the local market. Firearms are manufactured and sold to the Kurds, and jewellery is made; but the principal exports are dried fruit, raisins, almonds, pistachios, chiefly to Russia and Turkey; also gum, oils, raw metals (copper, iron), hides, precious stones, alimentary products (honey and dried vegetables), various kinds of wood, live stock (mainly sheep and oxen), tobacco, raw and manufactured, dyes, and raw and manufactured cotton and silk, carpets, rugs, and cloth.

All these exports are to Russia and Turkey, and do not all necessarily come from Azerbaijan. The Russians are displaying great activity in this province, and have established an important branch of their "Banque d'Escompte et de Prets de Perse." They have obtained road, railway, and mining concessions, and according to the report of our consul in Tabriz, the Russian Bank makes advances, to the extent of fifty per cent., to merchants dealing in Russian goods, especially to native exporters of dried fruit, such advances being repaid in Russia by the sale of such produce, or in Persia by the sale of corresponding imports of manufactured goods.

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