According to Vladimir Minorsky, there were villages in the Urmia plain as early as 2000 BC, with their civilization under the influence of the Kingdom of Van. The excavations of the ancient ruins near Urmia led to the discovery of utensils that date to the 20th century BC.
In ancient times, the west bank of Urmia Lake was called Gilzan, and in the ninth century BC an independent government ruled there, which later joined the Urartu or Mana empire; in the 8th century BC, the area was a vassal of the Asuzh government until it joined the Median Empire after its formation.
a brief history
The Ottoman Turks made several incursions into the city, but the Safavids were soon able to regain control over the area. The first monarch of Iran’s Qajar dynasty, Agha Muhammad Khan, was crowned in Urmia in 1795.
Due to the presence of substantial Christian minority at the end of the 19th century, Urmia was also chosen as a site of the first American Christian mission in Iran in 1835. Another mission soon became operational in nearby Tabriz as well. During World War I the population was estimated as 30,000 by Dr. Caujole, a quarter of which (7,500) were Assyrians and 1,000 were Jews.
During the 19th century, the region became the center of a short lived Assyrian renaissance with many books and newspapers being published in Syriac. Urmia was also the seat of a Chaldean diocese.
At the beginning of the First World War tens of thousands of Assyrians and Armenians from Anatolia found refuge in Urmia. The city changed hands several times between Russians and Kurds the following two years .
The influx of Christian refugees and their alliance with the Russians angered the Muslims who attacked the Christian quarter in February 1918, The better armed Assyrians managed however to capture the whole city following a brief battle. The region descended into chaos again after the assassination of the Assyrian patriarch Shimun XXI Benyamin at the hands of Simko Shikak one month later. Turkish armies and Simko managed to finally take and plunder the city in June/July 1918. Thousands of Assyrians were massacred as part of the Assyrian Genocide, others found refuge under British protection in Iraq.