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About Iran » Iran history
"History is a mirror of the past and a lesson for the present."
(A Persian Proverb)
Iran at a Short Glance

Iran (Persian) officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Central Eurasia and Western Asia.The name Iran has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was also known to the western world as Persia. Both Persia and Iran are used interchangeably in cultural contexts; however, Iran is the name used officially in political contexts.

The 18th largest country in the world in terms of area at 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), Iran has a population of over 74 million. It is a country of particular geostrategic significance owing to its location in the Middle East and central Eurasia. Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. As Iran is a littoral state of the Caspian Sea, which is an inland sea and condominium, Kazakhstan and Russia are also Iran's direct neighbors to the north. Iran is bordered on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, on the west by Iraq and on the northwest by Turkey. Tehran is the capital, the country's largest city and the political, cultural, commercial and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a regional power, and holds an important position in international energy security and world economy as a result of its large reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations. The first Iranian dynasty formed during the Elamite kingdom in 2800 BC. The Iranian Medes unified Iran into an empire in 625 BC. They were succeeded by the Iranian Achaemenid Empire, the Hellenic Seleucid Empire and two subsequent Iranian empires, the Parthians and the Sassanids, before the Muslim conquest in 651 AD. Iranian post-Islamic dynasties and empires expanded the Persian language and culture throughout the Iranian plateau. Early Iranian dynasties which re-asserted Iranian independence included the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids and Buyids.

The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and art became major elements of Muslim civilization and started with the Saffarids and Samanids. Iran was once again reunified as an independent state in 1501 by the Safavid dynasty,who promoted Twelver Shi'a Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in the history of Islam. "Persia's Constitutional Revolution" established the nation's first parliament in 1906, within a constitutional monarchy. Iran officially became an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979, following the Iranian Revolution.

Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC. The political system of Iran, based on the 1979 constitution, comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The highest state authority is the Supreme Leader. Shia Islam is the official religion and Persian is the official language.

Iran History from the outset of governments

The topic of Iran History is a very long and complicated one, including thousands of years of history. What we are more concerned about is the history of Iran with an outlook to study its various governments ruling as long as the historical documents can approve them.

Iran History Main Divisions

We can make the long history of Iran easier to follow and remember by dividing it into major periods:

  • Pre-Islam Iran (from Elamites to Sassanids)
  • Post-Islam Iran (from Arabs' invasion to Qajars)

Also, a turning point at the history of Iran, which is of high importance in our study of this history, is contemporary Iran, meaning about the last century.

  • Pre-Revolution Iran (Pahlavi dynasty)
  • Post-Revolution Iran (Islamic Republic of Iran)
Short introduction of pre-Islam Era

The country has always been known to its own people as Iran (land of the Aryans),although for centuries it was referred to as Persia (Pars or Fars, a province in southern Iran) by the Europeans, mainly due to the writings of Greek historians. In 1935 the Government specified that it should be called Iran; however, in 1949 they allowed both names to be used.

Most people today, know Persia or Iran through its carpets, its caviar, and its costly war with its neighbor Iraq, or through its importance as one of the world's major oil-producing nations. Yet, Persia has one of the richest and oldest cultures in the world.

For more than three thousand years Persia was a cradle of civilizations and demographic movements between Asia and Europe. Under Cyrus the Great, it became the centre of the world's first empire. Successive invasions by the Greeks, Arabs, Mongols and Turks developed the nation's culture through rich and diverse philosophical, artistic, scientific and religious influences.

Persia's first vigorous growth began in the Neolithic era, and by the third millennium B.C. it had developed into a civilization of great sophistication. The infiltration of the Aryan peoples into Iran during the second millennium B.C. paved that way for the Achaemenian dynasty, whose achievements were gloriously represented in the great palaces of Persepolis.

These monuments had been built to testify to the absolute power of the Achaemenian Empire, and yet they were razed to the ground in just one night by Alexander, who conquered Persia and begun the Hellenistic period. This was followed in less than two hundred years by the Parthian and then the Sassanian Empires...

Chronology of Significant Events
Period Description
1200 BC Zenith of Elamite Kingdom. Iron Age.
844 BC First mention of Iranians in Assyrian texts.
728 BC Rise of the Median Empire.
6th century BC The Persian Achaemenid Empire is found.
330 BC Alexander the Great invades Persia, collapse of the Persian Achaemenid Empire.
312 BC The Seleucid Greek Dynasty is founded.
161-138 BC Set up of Parthian Empire.
87 BC - 244 AD Decline of the Parthian Empire and the rise of Rome.
224 Sassanian Empire is founded.
641 The Arabs defeat the Iranians at Nihavend. Iran is formally annexed to the Arab Empire. The ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism gave way to Islam.
744-749 Shiite revolt led by Abu Muslem, to establish the Abbasid Caliphate.
903-999 Samanid dynasty in Khorasan.
962-1040 Ghaznavi dynasty rises in the east, challenging the Samanids.
1037 Seljuk Turks, originating from Oghuz tribes, invaded Iran.
1073 - 1092 Zenith of Seljuk power.
1117-1157 End of Seljuk rule in Iran.
1219-1227 Genghis Khan devastates Iran.
1380-1393 Timur conquers Iran. Suspension of the Nestorian Church.
1500 Overthrow of the Timurids.
1502-1524 Foundation of Safavid dynasty. Conversion of Iran to Shiite Islam.
1587-1629 Zenith of Safavid power. Golden Age. Prosperity of Iran's art and culture.
1736-1747 Afsharid dynasty is founded.
1750-1779 Foundation of Zand dynasty.
1795-1797 Mohammad Qajar overthrows Zand dynasty and founds Qajar dynasty.
1812 Treaty of Gulistan. Iran cedes territories to Russia.
1896-1906 The Constitutional Revolution. Promulgation of the Constitution.
1908 Nationalist uprising.
1909 Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later British Petroleum) formed.
1924-1925 Qajar dynasty overthrown and plans prepared to establish a republic, with Reza Khan as its President.
1925-1941 Proclamation of Reza Khan as Reza Shah, founder of the Pahlavi dynasty.
1943 Tehran Conference (Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin).
1963 Religious nation-wide uprising led by Ayatollah Khomeini, in protest to the so-called White Revolution.
1967 Coronation of Mohammad Reza.
1971 2500 anniversary of the Iranian Monarchy celebrated.
1978-1979 New waves of Islamic uprising all over Iran force Shah to flee the country.
1 April, 1979 The nation votes for the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Government under the leadership of the late Ayatollah Khomeini (1900-1989).
1980 - 1988 Iran - Iraq war
1989 Ayatollah Seyed Ruhollah Mustafavi, known as Musavi Khomeini, founder and leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran passes away on 03 June.
Ayatollah Khamenei elected as the new Leader of the country.
Hojjat ol -Eslam Rafsanjani elected as the new President of Iran.
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