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Ardebil(ärdəbēl`), town (1991 pop. 311,022), NW Iran, near the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is a market center for a fertile agricultural region. Carpets and rugs are produced in the town. Ardebil was probably founded in the 5th cent. A.D. It became (10th cent.) the capital of Azerbaijan but was soon superseded by Tabriz. In 1220 it was destroyed by the Mongols. The town quickly regained its importance as the home of Safi ad-Din, the founder of a celebrated Sufi order. The Safavids erected a beautiful shrine there, and the town became a center of pilgrimage. Ardebil also contains the tomb of Shah Ismail. The town was occupied by the Turks in 1725 and by the Russians in 1828. Its proficient library was taken to St. Petersburg by the Russians. The name is also spelled Ardabil.
city in northeastern Iran, eastern Azerbaijan. Population, 83,500 (1966). It has a system of paved roads and an airport. Ardebil has a carpet industry; mineral springs are nearby. It is not known when Ardebil was founded. It was first mentioned during the later Sassanid period. In the Middle Ages, especially the ninth and tenth centuries, Ardebil was a large trade, craft, and cultural center of Azerbaijan. In remote times it was the capital of small independent principalities. In 1220 it was captured and destroyed by the Mongols. At the end of the 13th century the dervish Safavid order was founded in Ardebil. The Ardebil Safavid sheikhdom became the nucleus of the Safavid state.
The mausoleum of Sheikh Safi, an architectural complex remarkable for its plan and its rich interior (16th—17th centuries), still stands in Ardebil. The complex consists of a large garden (120 m long) with a portal (1648; the decor was executed by the master craftsman Ismail of Ardebil); a small court, leading into a large court with an octagonal mosque (13th century [?]), and a rectangular memorial mosque. Adjoining it is the cylindrical-domed mausoleum of Sheikh Safi, which is completely covered by a patterned glaze, and the Chini-khane octagonal building (a repository for porcelain articles).