Provinces of Iran
استان‌های ایران
Ostânhâ-ye Irân
  • Also known as:
  • Ostân
CategoryUnitary state
Populations591,000 (Ilam province) – 13,323,000 (Tehran province)
Areas5,833 km2 (2,252 sq mi) (Alborz province) – 183,285 km2 (70,767 sq mi) (Kerman province)
Provinces of Iran by population in 2021
Provinces of Iran by population density in 2013
Map of the Iranian provinces by Human Development Index in 2017
  0.800 – 1.000 (Very high)
  0.700 – 0.799 (High)
  0.600 – 0.699 (Medium)
Provinces of Iran by contribution to national GDP in 2014
Provinces of Iran by GDP per capita in 2012

Iran is subdivided into thirty-one provinces (Persian: استان ostân), each governed from a local centre, usually the largest local city, which is called the capital (Persian: مرکز, markaz) of that province. The provincial authority is headed by a governor-general (Persian: استاندار ostândâr), who is appointed by the Minister of the Interior subject to approval of the cabinet.[1]

Modern history

Map of Administrative Subdivisions of Iran in 1911, Tehran, Eyalats, and Velayats

Iran has held its modern territory since the Treaty of Paris in 1857. Prior to 1937, Iran had maintained its feudal administrative divisional structure, dating back to the time the modern state was centralized by the Safavid dynasty in the 16th century. Although the boundaries, roles, and rulers changed often. On the eve of the Persian Constitutional Revolution in 1905, Iran was composed of Tehran, being directly ruled by the monarch; four eyalats (Persian: ایالات elâyât pl., ایالت elayat sin.), ruled by Qajar princes; and various velayats (Persian: ولایات velâyât pl., ولایت velayat sin.). Nomadic tribal confederations, such as the Bakhtiari people and Qashqai people, were largely independent of the domestic administrative divisions and were autonomous.

With the Constitutional Revolution, and the formation of the first National Consultative Assembly, Iran's administrative subdivisions were legally defined in 1907.[2] Any change in the boundaries of eyalats, velayats, or their respective sub-districts was banned as per the Iranian constitution, except with the passage of a new law by the assembly. As per the 1907 law, the following were defined:[2]

.ماده ۱ ــ مملکت محروسه ایران برای تسهیل امور سیاسی بایالات و ولایات منقسم می‌شود

ماده ۲ ــ ایالت قسمتی از مملکت است که دارای حکومت مرکزی و ولایات حاکم‌نشین جزء است و فعلاً منحصر به چهار ایالت است: آذربایجان، کرمان و بلوچستان، فارس، خراسان

ماده ۳ ــ ولایات قسمتی از مملکت است که دارای یک شهر حاکم‌نشین و توابع باشد اعم از اینکه حکومت آن تابع پایتخت یا تابع مرکز ایالتی باشد
Article 1 - Guarded Domain of Iran, for the facilitation of political affairs, will be subdivided into Eyalats and Velayats

Article 2 - Eyalat is a part of the kingdom which includes a central government and subordinate governor-ruled Velayats and at the moment there only are four Eyalat: Azerbaijan, Kerman and Baluchistan, Fars, Khurasan.

Article 3 - Velayat is a part of the kingdom which includes a governor-residence city and subordinate areas, whether its governance is subordinate to the capital [Tehran], or to the capital of an Eyalat.

On October 22, 1911, Iranian National Consultative Assembly passed another law, titled "The law of Election of National Consultative Assembly" (Persian: قانون انتخابات مجلس شورای ملی). This law presented a complete list of all Eyalats and Velayats of the country, as well as their constituent districts and cities. This list presented the grouping of various towns and districts into electoral districts for the purpose of the election. According to this law, in 1911, Iran was made up of 27 administrative subdivisions, the region of Tehran, 4 eyalats, and 22 velayats.[3] Below is a list:

In 1937, Iran was reorganized to form ten numbered provinces with subordinate governorates: Gilan, Mazandaran, East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, Fars, Kerman, Khorasan, and Isfahan.[4]

Iran has had a historical claim to Bahrain as its 14th province: Bahrain province, which was under British colonial occupation until 1971. Prior to 1957, Bahrain was placed under Fars province.[5] During Safavid Iran, Bahrain was subordinate to Bushehr governorship and Zubarah (located in modern-day country of Qatar) was its capital city. In 1737, under Afsharid dynasty Bahrain was made subject to Fars governorship.[6] This claim was reasserted by the new theocratic Iranian leadership after 1979 with the famous 1981 coup attempt that occurred.[7]

From 1960 to 1981, the governorates were gradually raised to provincial status one by one. Since then several new provinces have been created, most recently in 2010 when the new Alborz province was split from Tehran province, and before that in 2004 when the province of Khorasan was divided into three provinces.[8]

Map of the 31 provinces of Iran


Iran population broken down by province
Iran population broken down by province

Current provinces

According to Donya-e-Eqtesad, between 2017 and 2019, some 11 of the 20 poorest Iranian cities were in the province of Sistan and Baluchestan. Three other markedly poor cities were located in Kerman province.[9]

Iranian provinces along with additional information and statistics
Province Abbreviation Capital Population (2023)[10] Area (km2) Population density (/km2) Counties Notes Map
Alborz AL Karaj 2,730,000 5,833 465.01 7 Until 23 June 2010, it was part of Tehran province.[11]
Ardabil AR Ardabil 1,284,000 17,800 71.37 12 Until 1993, it was part of East Azerbaijan province.[12]
Bushehr BU Bushehr 1,174,000 22,743 51.15 10 Originally part of Fars province. Until 1977, it was known as Khalij-e Fars (Persian Gulf).[4]
Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari CB Shahr-e Kord 973,000 16,332 58.03 12 Until 1973, it was part of Isfahan province.[13]
East Azerbaijan EA Tabriz 3,925,000 45,650 85.64 21
Fars FA Shiraz 4,904,000 122,608 39.57 37
Gilan GN Rasht 2,546,000 14,042 180.22 17
Golestan GO Gorgan 1,893,000 20,195 92.53 14 On 31 May 1997, the counties of Aliabad, Gonbad-e Kavus, Gorgan, Kordkuy, Minudasht, and Torkaman were separated from Mazandaran province to form Golestan province. Gorgan was known as Esteraba or Astarabad until 1937.[4]
Hamadan HA Hamadan 1,756,000 19,368 90.78 10 Originally part of Kermanshah province.[4]
Hormozgan HO Bandar Abbas 1,806,000 70,669 25.14 13 Originally part of Kerman province.[4] Until 1977, the province was known as Banader va Jazayer-e Bahr-e Oman (Ports and Islands of the Sea of Oman).[4]
Ilam IL Ilam 591,000 20,133 28.82 12 Originally part of Kermanshah province.[4]
Isfahan IS Isfahan 5,136,000 107,029 47.85 28 In 1986, some parts of Markazi province were transferred to Isfahan, Semnan, and Zanjan provinces.[4]
Kerman KN Kerman 3,184,000 183,285 17.27 25
Kermanshah KE Kermanshah 2,003,000 24,998 78.10 14 Between 1950 and 1979, both Kermanshah province and city were known as Kermanshahan, and between 1979 and 1995 as Bakhtaran.[4]
Khuzestan KH Ahvaz 4,725,000 64,055 73.54 30
Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad KB Yasuj 728,000 15,504 45.99 9 Originally part of Khuzestan province. Until 1990, the province was known as Bovir Ahmadi and Kohkiluyeh.[4]
Kurdistan KU Sanandaj 1,614,000 29,137 55.02 10 Originally part of Gilan province.[4]
Lorestan LO Khorramabad 1,784,000 28,294 62.23 11 Originally part of Khuzestan province.[4]
Markazi MA Arak 1,436,000 29,130 49.07 12 Originally part of Mazandaran province.[4] In 1986, some parts of Markazi province were transferred to Isfahan, Semnan, and Zanjan provinces.[4]
Mazandaran MN Sari 3,302,000 23,701 138.54 22
North Khorasan NK Bojnord 868,000 28,434 30.35 10 On 29 September 2004, Khorasan province was divided into three provinces: North Khorasan, Razavi Khorasan, and South Khorasan.[8]
Qazvin QA Qazvin 1,284,000 15,549 81.92 6 On 31 December 1996, the counties of Qazvin and Takestan were separated from Zanjan province to form Qazvin province.[4]
Qom QM Qom 1,300,000 11,526 112.12 3 Until 1995, Qom was a county of Tehran province.[4]
Razavi Khorasan RK Mashhad 6,444,000 118,884 54.12 34 On 29 September 2004, Khorasan province was divided into three provinces: North Khorasan, Razavi Khorasan, and South Khorasan.[8]
Semnan SE Semnan 715,000 97,491 7.20 8 Originally part of Mazandaran province.[4] In 1986, some parts of Markazi province were transferred to Isfahan, Semnan, and Zanjan provinces.[4]
Sistan and Baluchestan SB Zahedan 2,777,000 180,726 15.35 26 Until 1986, the province was known as Baluchestan and Sistan.[4]
South Khorasan SK Birjand 786,000 151,913 5.06 11 On 29 September 2004, Khorasan province was divided into three provinces: North Khorasan, Razavi Khorasan, and South Khorasan.[8]
Tehran TE Tehran 13,323,000 18,814 705.20 16 Until 1986, Tehran was part of Markazi province.
West Azerbaijan WA Urmia 3,278,000 37,437 87.22 20 During the Pahlavi dynasty, Urmia was known as Rezaiyeh.[14]
Yazd YA Yazd 1,156,000 76,469 14.89 12 Originally part of Isfahan province.[13] In 1986, part of Kerman province was transferred to Yazd province. In 2002, Tabas County (area: 55,344 km2) was transferred from Khorasan province to Yazd province.[4]
Zanjan ZA Zanjan 1,103,000 21,773 48.57 8 Originally part of Gilan province. In 1986, some parts of Markazi province were transferred to Isfahan, Semnan, and Zanjan provinces.[4]
Iran (total) IR Tehran 79,937,000 1,628,554 km2 (628,788 sq mi) 49.078 480

Provincial abbreviations

Table below shows the provinces' abbreviation, which can be used in postal addresses and academic affiliations for the sake of simplicity.

Province Abbreviation Method
Alborz AL First two letters
Ardabil AR First two letters
Azerbaijan, East EA First two words
Azerbaijan, West WA First two words
Bushehr BU First two letters
Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari CB First two words
Fars FA First two letters
Gilan GI First two letters
Golestan GO First two letters
Hamadan HA First two letters
Hormozgan HO First two letters
Ilam IL First two letters
Isfahan IS First two letters
Kerman KE First two letters
Kermanshah KS First two words
Khorasan, North NK First two words
Khorasan, Razavi RK First two words
Khorasan, South SK First two words
Khuzestan KH First two letters
Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad KB First two words
Kurdistan KU First two letters
Lorestan LO First two letters
Markazi MA First two letters
Mazandaran MN First and last letter
Qazvin QA First two letters
Qom QO First two letters
Semnan SE First two letters
Sistan and Baluchestan SB First two words
Tehran TE First two letters
Yazd YA First two letters
Zanjan ZA First two letters

Historical provinces

See also

References and notes

  1. ^ IRNA, Online Edition. "Paris for further cultural cooperation with Iran". Archived from the original on 23 October 2007. Retrieved 21 October 2007.
  2. ^ a b "The law on the formation of Eyalats and Velayats and the instructions of the governors, Passed on December 18, 1907". Laws and Regulations Portal of Islamic Republic of Iran. Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  3. ^ "The law of Election of National Consultative Assembly, Passed on October 22, 1911". Laws and Regulations Portal of Islamic Republic of Iran. Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Gwillim Law, Statoids website. "Provinces of Iran". Archived from the original on 22 October 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2006.
  5. ^ Ebrahimi, Mansoureh; Rad Goudarzi, Masoumeh; Yusoff, Kamaruzaman (2018), The Dynamics of Iranian Borders: Issues of Contention, Springer, p. 106, ISBN 9783319898360
  6. ^ Mojtahed-Zadeh, Pirouz (2013). Security and Territoriality in the Persian Gulf: A Maritime Political Geography. Routledge. p. 139. ISBN 978-0700710980.
  7. ^ "Former IRGC General Close To Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'Bahrain Is A Province Of Iran That Should Be Annexed To [It]'". MEMRI. 23 March 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d Online edition, Al-Jazeera Satellite Network. "Iran breaks up largest province". Archived from the original on 20 May 2006. Retrieved 30 April 2006.
  9. ^ Monday, 23 Aug 2021 11:30 (23 August 2021). "Iran Enters A New Economic Era Marked By Poverty | Iran International". Retrieved 15 March 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Census 2023: Population and Households of the Country by Province and Sub-province (Shahrestan)" (Excel). Iran Data Portal. The Statistical Center of Iran. Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  11. ^ Larijani, Ali (16 April 1389). "Alborz province establishment law". Lamtakam (in Persian). Guardian Council. Archived from the original on 16 December 2023. Retrieved 16 December 2023.
  12. ^ Chamber Society, Iranian. "Ardabil Province". Archived from the original on 12 June 2008. Retrieved 23 July 2008.
  13. ^ a b Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, Ostandarie. "Chahar Mahaal and Bakhtiari Province". Retrieved 23 July 2008.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Urmia". Archived from the original on 8 September 2008. Retrieved 23 July 2008.
Official provincial websites