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Mosul (mōˈsəl, mōso͞olˈ), Arab. al Mawsil, city (1987 pop. 664,221), provincial capital, N Iraq, on the Tigris River, opposite the ruins of Nineveh. It is the largest city in N Iraq and the third largest city in the country. Trade in agricultural goods and exploitation of oil in the nearby oil fields are the two main occupations of the inhabitants. Mosul has an oil refinery; its productivity in the 1980s was hindered by the Iran-Iraq War. While most of the urban population is Arab, the surrounding region has a large Kurdish population. The city is the seat of Mosul Univ. and a center of Nestorian Christianity.

Mosul was the chief city of N Mesopotamia from the 8th to 13th cent., when it was devastated by the Mongols. The city remained poor and shabby through its occupation by the Persians (1508) and the Turks (1534–1918). Under the British occupation and mandate (1918–32) it regained its stature as the chief city of the region. Its possession by Iraq was disputed by Turkey (1923–25) but was confirmed by the League of Nations (1926). Many of Mosul's historic mosques and shrines as well as an ancient monastery nearby were destroyed by Islamic State militants after they captured the city in 2014. The Iraqi government began an offensive to retake Mosul in late 2016, winning control of the city by mid-2017. Thousands died and much of W Mosul, including the old city, was reduced to rubble in the fighting.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(al Mawsil), a city in northern Iraq, on the right bank of the Tigris River; administrative center of the Ninawa muhafaza. Population, 343,000 (1968). Railroad station and highway junction. Mosul has textile, food, leather goods and footwear, and metalworking industries. There is commerce in grain, fruit, and livestock. Nearby oil is extracted (Ayn Zalah), and there are cement and asphalt plants.

According to some sources, Mosul was a suburb of ancient Nineveh. In 641 the city was occupied by the Arabs and became part of the Arab Caliphate. Because it was located on the most important trade routes, Mosul became a major trade and handicraft center. Between the tenth and 12th centuries it was the capital of the various feudal states. In 1261, Mosul was taken and plundered by the Mongols. Almost continually from the early 16th century to 1918, the city belonged to the Ottoman Turks; in the 1860’s it was made the administrative center of the Mosul vilayet of the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, Mosul was occupied by British troops; in 1920 it became part of Iraq.

The medieval city, which was surrounded by a stone wall (12th century; destroyed in 1743), contains the Great Mosque of Nur-al-din (also known as Jami al-Kabir, 1170–72, reconstructed from the 12th to the 19th century) and its minaret (12th century), the al-Izziya Madrasa (12th century), the ruins of the Qara Saray Palace (13th century), the mausoleum of Yahya Abi’l Qasim (13th century), and the mausoleum of Aun al-Din (1247). Christian churches include those of Mar Ahudammah (tenth century) and Mar Shimun (13th century, reconstructed in 1936). Outside the city walls are 20th-century blocks with a regular layout (architects R. Squire and others). Near Mosul is the mausoleum mosque of Nabi Yunus (tenth century; dome, 14th century).


Mosul and Its Neighbouring District, 2nd ed. Baghdad, 1956.
Fiey, J. M. Mossoul chrétienne. Beirut, 1959.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a city in N Iraq, on the River Tigris opposite the ruins of Nineveh: an important commercial centre with nearby Ayn Zalah oilfield; university. Pop.: 1 236 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005