Capital : Tehran
Azerbayjan-e Gharbi, Azerbayjan-e Sharqi, Bakhtaran, Bushehr, Gilan, Fars, Hamadan, Kordestan, Khorasan, Khuzestan, Khokiluyehva, Markazi, Semnan, Buyer Ahmadi, Sistan va Baluchestan, Zanjan, Mazandaran, Yazd
Iran, the name now used for Persia, comes from the Aryan tribes who settled between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea about 3000 years ago. Although there were objections to the use of 'Persia' as the country's name as it only included one particular tribe, the language spoken by about 68% of the population in 1977 was still called 'Farsi'. A dialect of it is spoken by the nomadic Lurs and Baluch. About a quarter of the population speaks Turkic, with the Quashquai near Shiraz and the Turkoman on the border near Russia being of true Turkish stock. There are mixed stock minority groups of Armenians, Jews, Arabs and Assyrians who retain their own language, religion and culture. There were still 40 000 Zoroastrians around Yazd at the time of the revolution. Since the time of the Achaemenid kings, Iranian culture has been a mixture of many different peoples, religions and languages.
After the death of Alexander the Great, Persia was ruled by Greece but the occupation soon began to adopt Persian customs and administrators and many mixed marriages took place. The invading Aryan tribes from the north east in the C3 BC brought in the Parthian dynasty but they too became Persianised. The Parthians managed to resist Rome for almost three centuries and were never subjected by the Empire. When Rome became Christianised in the C3 AD, Zoroastrianism was used to rally the Persians together and there was some persecution of Christians under the Sassanids. In the C7 AD, Persia occupied Damascus in 613, Jerusalem in 614, Egypt in 619 and besieged Constantinople. The Persian and Byzantine Empires were both weakened by these campaigns and the newly emerged religion of Islam was growing strength in Arabia.
The Shi'ite sect believed that the spiritual leadership of the Caliphate should remain in the family of the prophet Mohammed, the Sunni majority that succession should pass to any suitable member of his tribe and Kharejites that it should be determined on piety alone). The five years between the battles of Qadesiyeh in 637 and Nahavand in 641 reduced Persia from a proud empire to a dependency of Arabia. Islam was less easily assimilated than previous invasions but when Caliph Hosayn, a descendant of the Prophet, was assassinated by the Omayyad dynasty of Arabia (Sunni Muslims), his martyrdom rallied the non-Arab Islamic faithful.
Under the Omayyads, no non-Arab could hold a senior post or enter Arabia. Society was ruled by Arab-born Muslims followed by the Mavali or non-Arab Muslims (Persians or ajams were the largest group), the Zemmi (non-Muslims from tolerated religions like Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism) and the slave level. In 750, the Omayyad dynasty was overthrown with the help of the Persian army under Abu Moslem, establishing the Abbasids who put more emphasis on Islamic faith than Arab origins. There were many religious risings in Persia and dynasties included Saffarids, Samanids, Buyids, Ghaznavids and Saljugs. During this time, the Iranian Renaissance saw advances in art, culture and medicine.
From 1220 onwards, Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes swept across Asia. Most of the west Persian cities were sacked but Persian culture and Islam survived. The Ilkhans were converted to Islam and encouraged trade with Christian Europe (Marco Polo visited in 1271) but their central control was lost to provincial kingdoms within a century. These fell between 1380 and 1393 under the savage second Mongol invasion of Tamerlaine, but his son, Shahrukh, restored arts, medicine and learning.
A boy of thirteen, Esma'il, became leader of the Turkoman Safavi tribe in 1490. Within fifteen years of continuous war, he controlled the whole of Iran. He hated the Sunni's and gave the people a choice between conversion to Shi'i or death. Almost everybody converted, giving Iran a united front against the Ottoman empire which, despite Esma'il's defeat by Sultan Selim I at Chaldiran in 1514, never took over Iran.
The Safavid, Shah Abbas, came to power in 1587 when the Ottoman decline had opened up trade routes. He established religious tolerance and had craftsmen from Italy and China to work on his new palace at Isfahan where many Christian Armenians settled. Pope Clement VIII was asked to send a Christian mission and the Augustinians came in 1603 and the Carmelites in 1607. There were embassies from east and west and diplomatic links were forged with Elizabeth I in England. Abbas maintained his strong position due to his readiness to execute opposition, including his three sons. His successors were far less strong, and the invading Afghans had a great victory near Isfahan in 1722. Russia, the Ottomans and Afghan were only prevented from taking over Iran by Nader Qoli of the Afshar tribe who became Shah in 1736, capturing Kabul, Peshawar and Lahore in 1738 and sacking Delhi in 1739. He also practised religious tolerance and planned to unite Shia and the Sunni but was strongly opposed and was murdered in 1747.
The Portuguese, Dutch and British all established trading rights in the C16th with the English gaining economic supremacy after sending the first warship, HMS Seahorse (with young midshipman, Horatio Nelson on board), to the gulf in 1775. The Persians lost control of Bahrein in 1783. In 1798 Napoleon, then in possession of Egypt and Syria, planned a campaign which was to conquer Persia and India. It never came to fruition but Britain, concerned for the Indian Empire, and Russia, wanting a southern port, began to take a greater interest in Persia. In 1813, Persia tried to regain Georgia but failed, leading to the humiliation of the Treaty of Gulistan, further territory loss, the Treaty of Turkomanci in 1828 and a war indemnity to the Russians of three million pounds. Russia encouraged Persia to try to regain the lost territories, Herat and Sistan on the borders of Britain's Indian Empire but they had to recognise the independent British puppet state of Afghanistan in 1857. Persia lost further territory in Turkestan and Russia took over Bokhara, Merv and the good farmland of the steppe-lands. There were some small gains from Turkey in 1821-3.
The Suez canal was opened in 1875 to give an alternative route to British India , the Indo-European Telegraph Company put lines across Persia in 1870, and Russia's attempt to gain a Gulf port led Britain to state her resistance to any country trying to establish itself on the Gulf. Britain and Russia combined to make Shah Nasr-ed-Din revoke a monopoly concession on rail, road, irrigation, mining , telegraph factories and custom duty to Baron Julien de Reuter in 1872. Russia established the Persian Cossack Brigade, a permanent military unit under Russian officers. De Reuter was granted a concession to establish the Imperial Bank of Persia, and in 1901 the English W.K. D'Arcy was granted a sixty-year concession to exploit oil resources. Nasr-ed-Din, who was fond of cats and practical jokes, was assassinated in 1896 but his successor Mozaffar al-Din was equally incompetent, with heavy taxation to meet royal debts. When demonstrations intensified in 1906, he agreed to a constitution and National Assembly (Majlis) but died within six months. His son and successor, Mohammed Ali, was known to be under Russian influence and he ordered the Cossack Brigade to bombard the Majlis after widespread confusion in political circles. Civil war intensified in 1909 and the Shah took sanctuary in the Russian Legation, abdicating in favour of his son, Sultan Ahmad. A new Majlis was convened and America asked for financial advice. Morgan Shuster of the US treasury soon reorganised the tax system, annoying Russia who wanted him dismissed. Britain supported her, and Shuster was removed, further undermining faith in Britain.
When WW1 broke out, Persia declared herself neutral but this was ignored. Tzarist armies were campaigning against the Turks on Persian territory, British troops occupied parts of Khuzistan to protect oil wells against German or Turkish instigated tribal attacks. When Russia withdrew after the October Revolution, Britain moved troops to north west Persia to stop it being used for a base to invade India. Most Persian moderates saw Communism as a threat but some nationalist extremists such as Kuchek Khan saw it as a chance to end Russian Imperialism and several revolutionary governments were set up. Britain tried to negotiate a treaty which would have put Persia under her control but was opposed by America. The Prime minister, Vosug, was replaced by Mushir al-Doleh who signed the Iran-Soviet in 1921.
It is possible that there was some British involvement in the lead-up to the almost bloodless 1921 coup which deposed Ahmad Shah, the last of the Qajar dynasty. One of the leaders, Seyyed Ziya had close connections with staff at the British Legation. He became Prime minister but fled the country after only three months. The man who took over, Reza Khan, born in Mazanderan province in 1878, was from a poor family with military connections. He joined the Cossack Brigade and fought some of the Bolshevik units but he disliked the influence of foreign powers, the corruption of the Qajars and the self-interest of the tribes. In 1925, he became Reza Shah Pahlavi and managed to consolidate his position by improving the bandit-riddled road system and building the Tehran-Abadan railway. Many civil service ministers were sacked and reforms and Westernisation were widespread.
German influence on Iran grew during the 1930s although the Shah frequently declared his neutrality. When Germany invaded Russia in 1941, the Allies needed a supply route to the Russian front. To prevent a German coup, Britain and Russia invaded Iran simultaneously from the south and north. Reza Shah died in Johannesburg three years after abdicating in favour of 21-year old Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. He was not crowned until 1967 as he said he could not take pride in being crowned king of a nation in the poor state Iran was then He promised to improve the situation. In 1943, the Tripartite agreement between Iran, Russia and Britain promised that all foreign troops would leave six months after hostilities ceased. War on Germany was officially declared in September 1943 with the Allied supply operation being augmented by American troops.
Although the USA, USSR and UK had all agreed to remove their troops, Russia had supported the formation of the 'Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan' to the north in 1945 and a it took a great deal of diplomatic activity before they actually went. After some years of financial problems, aid was granted to Iran by America in 1950 but it was so little that it caused bad feeling. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company stopped operating. It was then that Dr Mossadegh came to power. In 1952, the Shah gave him permission to govern without consulting Parliament for six months but his extreme xenophobia led to threats to limit American aid, turning opinion against him and leading to his dismissal. Zahedi became Prime Minister, ousting the pro-Communist Tudeh party, and aid increased. The formation of an 'International Oil Consortium' was negotiated by 1954.
The monarchy celebrated its 2500th anniversary in 1971. Just seven years later the revolution that was to end it and put the fundamentalist leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, in power, had begun. Persecution of any religious sects, such as the Bahais, who did not share their opinions, was soon common. (Although the Bahai religion is Islamic, their beliefs that all previous religions teach essential truths and that their founder, Bahaullah, was the new prophet foretold by Mohammed, are considered 'Un-Islamic' by the fundamentalist Muslims.)
As the country is strongly Islamic, many Arabic Muslim names are commonly used.
|Shahanshah||king of kings|
|Salar-Lashgar||Commander of the army|
|Farman-Farma||Greatest of all Commanders|
|Farman-Farmaian||belonging to above|
|Shah Tahmasp II||-1732|
|Abbas III||1732-6||infant son of Tahmasp II|
|Nadir Shah Quli||1736-67||brother of Tahmasp II|
|Sultan Ahmed Shah||1909-24 dep||son|
|Mohammad Reza Pahlavi||1945-|
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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