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Iran (ēränˈ, ĭrănˈ), officially Islamic Republic of Iran, republic (2015 est. pop. 79,360,000), 636,290 sq mi (1,648,000 sq km), SW Asia. The country's name was changed from Persia to Iran in 1935. Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and the Caspian Sea; on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and on the west by Turkey and Iraq. The Shatt al Arab forms part of the Iran-Iraq border. Tehran is the capital, largest city and the political, cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation.


Physiographically, Iran lies within the Alpine-Himalayan mountain system and is composed of a vast central plateau rimmed by mountain ranges and limited lowland regions. Iran is subject to numerous and often severe earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The Iranian Plateau (alt. c.4,000 ft/1,200 m), which extends beyond the low ranges of E Iran into Afghanistan, is a region of interior drainage. It consists of a number of arid basins of salt and sand, such as those of Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut, and some marshlands, such as the area around Hamun-i-Helmand along the Afghanistan border. The plateau is surrounded by high folded and volcanic mountain chains including the Kopet Mts. in the northwest, the Elburz Mts. (rising to 18,934 ft/5,771 m at Mt. Damavand, Iran's highest point) in the north, and the complex Zagros Mts. in the west. Lake Urmia, the country's largest inland body of water, is in the Zagros of NW Iran. Narrow coastal plains are found along the shores of the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, and the Caspian Sea; at the head of the Persian Gulf is the Iranian section of the Mesopotamian lowlands. Of the few perennial rivers in Iran, only the Karun in the west is navigable for large craft; other major rivers are the Karkheh and the Sefid Rud.

The climate of Iran is continental, with hot summers and cold, rainy winters; the mountain regions of the north and west have a subtropical climate. Temperature and precipitation vary with elevation, as winds bring heavy moisture from the Persian Gulf. The Caspian region receives over 40 in. (102 cm) of rain annually. Precipitation occurs mainly in the winter and decreases from northwest to southeast. Much of the precipitation in the mountains is in the form of snow, and meltwater is vital for Iran's water supply. The central portion of the plateau and the southern coastal plain (Makran) receive less than 5 in. (12.7 cm) of rain annually.

In addition to Tehran, important cities include Esfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz, Rasht, Hamadan, Abadan, Shiraz, and Ahvaz.


Iran's central position has made it a crossroads of migration; the population is not homogeneous, although it has a Persian core that includes over half of the people. Azerbaijanis constitute almost a quarter of the population. The migrant ethnic groups of the mountains and highlands, including the Kurds, Lurs, Qashqai, and Bakhtiari, are of the least mixed descent of the ancient inhabitants. In the northern provinces, Turkic and Tatar influences are evident; Arab strains predominate in the southeast. Iran has a large rural population, found mainly in agrarian villages, although there are nomadic and seminomadic pastoralists throughout the country.

Islam entered the country in the 7th cent. A.D. and is now the official religion; about 90% of Iranians are Muslims of the Shiite sect. The remainder, mostly Kurds and Arabs, are Sunnis. Colonies of Zoroastrians (see Zoroastrianism) remain at Yazd, Kerman, and other large towns. In addition to Armenian and Assyrian Christian sects, there are Jews, Protestants, and Roman Catholics. Attempts have been made to suppress Babism and its successor, Baha'i, whose adherents constitute about 1% of Iran's population; Sufism has also suffered from government restrictions under the Islamic republic. Other religious movements, such as Mithraism (see under Mithra) and Manichaeism, originated in Iran.

The principal language of the country is Persian (Farsi), which is written with the Arabic alphabet and spoken by about 60% of the people. Other groups speak Turkic dialects (25%), Kurdish, (10%), and Turkish, Armenian, and Arabic. Among the educated classes, English and French are spoken.


About 10% of the land in Iran is arable; agriculture contributes just over 11% to the GDP and employs a third of the labor force. The main food-producing areas are in the Caspian region and in the valleys of the northwest. Wheat, the most important crop, is grown mainly in the west and northwest; rice is the major crop in the Caspian region. Barley, corn, sugar beets, fruits (including citrus), nuts, cotton, dates, tea, hemp, and tobacco are also grown, and livestock is raised. Illicit cultivation of the opium poppy is fairly common.

The principal obstacles to agricultural production are primitive farming methods, overworked and underfertilized soil, poor seed, and scarcity of water. About one third of the cultivated land is irrigated; the construction of multipurpose dams and reservoirs along the rivers in the Zagros and Elburz mts. has increased the amount of water available for irrigation. Agricultural programs of modernization, mechanization, and crop and livestock improvement, and programs for the redistribution of land are increasing agricultural production.

The northern slopes of the Elburz Mts. are heavily wooded, and forestry products are economically important; the cutting of trees is rigidly controlled by the government, which also has a reforestation program. In the rivers entering the Caspian Sea are salmon, carp, trout, and pike; the prized sturgeon (and caviar) of the Caspian Sea have been hurt by pollution and overfishing.

Of the variety of natural resources found in Iran, petroleum (discovered in 1908 in Khuzestan province) and natural gas are by far the most important; oil accounts for 80% of export revenues. The chief oil fields are found in the central and southwestern parts of the Zagros Mts. in W Iran. Oil also is found in N Iran and in the offshore waters of the Persian Gulf. Major refineries are located at Abadan (site of the country's first refinery, built 1913), Kermanshah, Tehran, and Bandar Abbas. Pipelines move oil from the fields to the refineries and to such exporting ports as Abadan, Bandar-e Mashur, and Khark Island. Domestic oil and gas, along with hydroelectric power facilities, provide the country with power.

Textiles are the second most important industrial product; Tehran and Esfahan are the chief textile-producing centers. Other major industries are sugar refining, food processing, and the production of petrochemicals, cement and other building materials, and machinery. Iron and steel and fertilizer are also produced. Traditional handicrafts such as carpet weaving and the manufacture of ceramics, silk, and jewelry are important to the economy as well.

Besides crude and refined petroleum, Iran's chief exports are chemical and petrochemical products, fruits, nuts, carpets, hides, and iron and steel; its chief imports are industrial raw materials, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, technical services, and military supplies. Iran's chief trading partners are China, Japan, Germany, Italy, and South Korea. Khorramshahr, on the Shatt al Arab, is the country's chief general cargo port; Bandar-e Anzali is the chief Caspian port.


Iran is a theocratic Islamic republic governed under the constitution of 1979 as amended. Appointed, rather than elected, offices and bodies hold the real power in the government. The supreme leader, who effectively serves as the head of state, is appointed for life by an Islamic religious advisory board (the Assembly of Experts). The supreme leader oversees the military and judiciary and appoints members of the Guardian Council and the Expediency Discernment Council. The former, some of whose members are appointed by the judiciary and approved by parliament, works in close conjunction with the government and must approve both candidates for political office and legislation passed by parliament. The latter is a body responsible for resolving disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council over legislation. The president, who is popularly elected for a four-year term, serves as the head of government. The unicameral legislature consists of the 290-seat Islamic Consultative Assembly, whose members are elected by popular vote for four-year terms. Administratively, Iran is divided into 30 provinces.


Early History to the Zand Dynasty

Iran has a long and rich history. For a detailed description of the Persian Empire, see Persia. Some of the world's most ancient settlements have been excavated in the Caspian region and on the Iranian plateau; village life began there c.4000 B.C. The Aryans came about 2000 B.C. and split into two main groups, the Medes and the Persians. The Persian Empire founded (c.550 B.C.) by Cyrus the Great was succeeded, after a period of Greek and Parthian rule, by the Sassanid in the early 3d cent. A.D. Their control was weakened when Arab invaders took (636) the capital, Ctesiphon; it ended when the Arabs defeated the Sassanid armies at Nahavand in 641. With the invasion of Persia the Arabs brought Islam. The Turks began invading in the 10th cent. and soon established several Turkish states. The Turks were followed by the Mongols, led by Jenghiz Khan in the 13th cent. and Timur in the late 14th cent.

The Safavid dynasty (1502–1736), founded by Shah Ismail, restored internal order in Iran and established the Shiite sect of Islam as the state religion; it reached its height during the reign (1587–1629) of Shah Abbas I (Abbas the Great). He drove out the Portuguese, who had established colonies on the Persian Gulf early in the 16th cent. Shah Abbas also established trade relations with Great Britain and reorganized the army. Religious differences led to frequent wars with the Ottoman Turks, whose interest in Iran was to continue well into the 20th cent.

The fall of the Safavid dynasty was brought about by the Afghans, who overthrew the weak shah, Husein, in 1722. An interval of Afghan rule followed until Nadir Shah expelled them and established (1736) the Afshar dynasty. He invaded India in 1738 and brought back fabulous wealth, including the legendary Peacock Throne and the Koh-i-noor diamond. Nadir Shah, a despotic ruler, was assassinated in 1747. The Afshar dynasty was followed by the Zand dynasty (1750–94), founded by Karim Khan, who established his capital at Shiraz and adorned that city with many fine buildings. His rule brought a period of peace and renewed prosperity. However, the country was soon again in turmoil, which lasted until the advent of Aga Muhammad Khan.

The Qajar Dynasty

A detested ruler (assassinated 1797), Aga Muhammad Khan defeated the last ruler of the Zand dynasty and established the Qajar dynasty (1794–1925). This long period saw Iran steadily lose territory to neighboring countries and fall under the increasing pressure of European nations, particularly czarist Russia. Under Fath Ali Shah (1797–1834), Persian claims in the entire Caucasian area were challenged by the Russians in a long struggle that ended with the Treaty of Gulistan (1813) and the Treaty of Turkmanchay (1828), by which Iran was forced to give up the Caucasian lands. Herat, the rich city on the Hari Rud, which had been part of the ancient Persian Empire, was taken by the Afghans. A series of campaigns to reclaim it ended with the intervention of the British on behalf of Afghanistan and resulted in the recognition of Afghan independence by Iran in 1857.

The discovery of oil in the early 1900s intensified the rivalry of Great Britain and Russia for power over the nation. Internally, the early 20th cent. saw the rise of the constitutional movement and a constitution establishing a parliament was accepted by the shah in 1906. Meanwhile, the British-Russian rivalry continued and in 1907 resulted in an Anglo-Russian agreement (annulled after World War I) that divided Iran into spheres of influence. The period preceding World War I was one of political and financial difficulty. During the war, Iran was occupied by the British and Russians but remained neutral; after the war, Iran was admitted to the League of Nations as an original member.

In 1919, Iran made a trade agreement with Great Britain in which Britain formally reaffirmed Iran's independence but actually attempted to establish a complete protectorate over it. After Iranian recognition of the USSR in a treaty of 1921, the Soviet Union renounced czarist imperialistic policies toward Iran, canceled all debts and concessions, and withdrew occupation forces from Iranian territory. In 1921, Reza Khan, an army officer, effected a coup and established a military dictatorship.

The Pahlevi Dynasty

Reza Khan was subsequently (1925) elected hereditary shah, thus ending the Qajar dynasty and founding the new Pahlevi dynasty. Reza Shah Pahlevi abolished the British treaty, reorganized the army, introduced many reforms, and encouraged the development of industry and education. In Aug., 1941, two months after the German invasion of the USSR, British and Soviet forces occupied Iran. On Sept. 16 the shah abdicated in favor of his son Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi. American troops later entered Iran to handle the delivery of war supplies to the USSR.

At the Tehran Conference in 1943 the Tehran Declaration, signed by the United States, Great Britain, and the USSR, guaranteed the independence and territorial integrity of Iran. However, the USSR, dissatisfied with the refusal of the Iranian government to grant it oil concessions, fomented a revolt in the north which led to the establishment (Dec., 1945) of the People's Republic of Azerbaijan and the Kurdish People's Republic, headed by Soviet-controlled leaders. When Soviet troops remained in Iran following the expiration (Jan., 1946) of a wartime treaty that also allowed the presence of American and British troops, Iran protested to the United Nations. The Soviets finally withdrew (May, 1946) after receiving a promise of oil concessions from Iran subject to approval by the parliament. The Soviet-established governments in the north, lacking popular support, were deposed by Iranian troops late in 1946, and the parliament subsequently rejected the oil concessions.

In 1951, the National Front movement, headed by Premier Mussadegh, a militant nationalist, succeeded in nationalizing the oil industry and formed the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). Although a British blockade led to the virtual collapse of the oil industry and serious internal economic troubles, Mussadegh continued his nationalization policy. Openly opposed by the shah, Mussadegh was ousted in 1952 but quickly regained power. The shah fled Iran but returned when monarchist elements forced Mussadegh from office in Aug., 1953; covert U.S. activity was in large part responsible for Mussadegh's ousting.

In 1954, Iran allowed an international consortium of British, American, French, and Dutch oil companies to operate its oil facilities, with profits shared equally between Iran and the consortium. After 1953 a succession of premiers restored a measure of order to Iran; in 1957 martial law was ended after 16 years in force. Iran established closer relations with the West, joining the Baghdad Pact (later called the Central Treaty Organization), and receiving large amounts of military and economic aid from the United States until the late 1960s.

Starting in the 1960s and continuing into the 1970s, the Iranian government, at the shah's initiative, undertook a broad program designed to improve economic and social conditions. Land reform was a major priority. In an effort to transform the feudal peasant-landlord agricultural system, the government purchased estates and sold the land to the people; it also distributed large tracts of crown land. In the Jan., 1963, referendum, the voters overwhelmingly approved the shah's extensive plan for further land redistribution, compulsory education, and a system of profit sharing in industry; the program was financed by the selling of government-owned factories to private investors. Within three years, 1.5 million former tenant farmers were plot owners.

The shah held close reins on the government as absolute monarch, but he moved toward certain democratic reforms within Iran. A new government-backed political party, the Iran Novin party, was introduced and won an overwhelming majority in the parliament in the 1963 and subsequent elections. Women received the right to vote in national elections in 1963.

Reaction, Repression, and Conflict

The shah's various reform programs and the continuing poor economic conditions alienated some of the major religious and political groups, and riots occurred in mid-1963. The general political instability was reflected by the assassination of Premier Hassan Ali Mansur and an unsuccessful attempt on the shah's life in Jan., 1965. Amir Abbas Hoveida succeeded as premier. In Oct., 1971, Iran commemorated the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Achaemenid Empire of Cyrus the Great with an elaborate celebration in the desert at Persepolis. Iran's pro-Western policies continued into the 1970s; however, opposition to such growing Westernization and secularization was strongly denounced by the Islamic clergy, headed by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had been exiled from Iran in 1964. Internal opposition within the country was regularly purged by the Shah's secret police force (SAVAK), created in 1957.

Improved relations in the 1970s, especially in the economic sphere, were established with Communist countries, including the USSR. However, relations with Iraq were antagonistic for much of the late 1960s and early 1970s, in great part due to conflict over the Shatt al Arab waterway. A number of armed clashes took place along the entire length of the border. In Apr., 1969, Iran voided the 1937 accord with Iraq on the control of the Shatt al Arab and demanded that the treaty, which had given Iraq virtual control of the river, be renegotiated.

In 1971, Britain withdrew its military forces from the Persian Gulf. Concerned that Soviet-backed Arab nations might try to fill the power vacuum created by the British withdrawal, Iran increased its defense budget by almost 50%, and with the help of huge U.S. and British defense programs, emerged as the region's strongest military power. Although Iran renounced all claims to Bahrain in 1970, it took control (Nov., 1971) of three small, Arab-owned islands at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Iraq protested Iran's action by expelling thousands of Iranian nationals.

In Mar., 1973, short of the end of the 25-year 1954 agreement with the international oil-producing consortium, the shah established the NIOC's full control over all aspects of Iran's oil industry, and the consortium agreed (May, 1973) to act merely in an advisory capacity in return for favorable long-term oil supply contracts. In the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli War of Oct., 1973, Iran, reluctant to use oil as a political weapon, did not participate in the oil embargo against the United States, Europe, Japan, and Israel. However, it used the situation to become a leader in the raising of oil prices in disregard of the Tehran Agreement of 1971. Iran utilized the revenue generated by price rises to bolster its position abroad as a creditor, to initiate domestic programs of modernization and economic development, and to increase its military power.

The Islamic Revolution

The rapid growth of industrialization and modernization programs within Iran, accompanied by ostentatious private wealth, became greatly resented by the bulk of the population, mainly in the overcrowded urban areas and among the rural poor. The shah's autocratic rule and his extensive use of the secret police led to widespread popular unrest throughout 1978. The religious-based protests were conservative in nature, directed against the shah's policies. Khomeini, who was expelled from Iraq in Feb., 1978, called for the abdication of the shah. Martial law was declared in September for all major cities. As governmental controls faltered, the shah fled Iran on Jan. 16, 1979. Khomeini returned and led religious revolutionaries to the final overthrow of the shah's government on Feb. 11.

The new government represented a major shift toward conservatism. It nationalized industries and banks and revived Islamic traditions. Western influence and music were banned, women were forced to return to traditional veiled dress, and Westernized elites fled the country. A new constitution was written allowing for a presidential system, but Khomeini remained at the executive helm as Supreme Leader. The Revolutionary Guard was established separately from the military as an ideologically based corps charged with defending the revolution. Clashes occurred between rival religious factions throughout 1979, as oil prices fell. Arrests and executions were rampant.

On Nov. 4, 1979, Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 American hostages. Khomeini refused all appeals, and agitation increased toward the West with the Carter administration's economic boycott, the breaking of diplomatic relations, and an unsuccessful rescue attempt (Apr., 1980). The hostage crisis lasted 444 days and was finally resolved on Jan. 20, 1981, the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as U.S. president. Nearly all Iranian conditions had been met, including the unfreezing of nearly $8 billion in Iranian assets.

War and its Aftermath

On Sept. 22, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran, commencing an eight-year war primarily over the disputed Shatt al Arab waterway (see Iran-Iraq War). The war rapidly escalated, leading to Iraqi and Iranian attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf in 1984. Fighting crippled both nations, devastating Iran's military supply and oil industry, and led to an estimated 500,000 to one million casualties. Khomeini rejected diplomatic initiatives and called for the overthrow of Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein. In Nov., 1986, U.S. government officials secretly visited Iran to trade arms with the Iranians, in the hopes of securing the release of American hostages being held in Lebanon, because Iran had political connections with Shiite terrorists in Lebanon. On July 3, 1988, a U.S. navy warship mistakenly shot down an Iranian civilian aircraft, killing all aboard. That same month, Khomeini agreed to accept a UN cease-fire with Iraq, ending the war. Iran subsequently summarily and secretly executed some 5,000 political prisoners.

Iran immediately began rebuilding the nation's economy, especially its oil industry. Tensions also eased at that time with neighboring Afghanistan, as Soviet troops there began withdrawal (completed in 1989), after a presence of nearly 10 years. During the Soviet occupation, Iran had become host to nearly 3 million Afghan refugees. Khomeini died in 1989 and was succeeded by Iran's president, Sayid Ali Khamenei. The presidency was soon filled by Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, who sought improved relations and financial aid with Western nations while somewhat diminishing the influence of fundamentalist and revolutionary factions and embarking on a military buildup. A major earthquake hit N Iran on June 21, 1990, killing nearly 40,000 people.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in Aug., 1990, Iran adhered to international sanctions against Iraq. However, Iran condemned the use of U.S.-led coalition forces against Iraq during the Persian Gulf War (1991), and it allowed Iraqi planes fleeing coalition air attacks to land in the country. As a result of the war and its aftermath, more than one million Kurds crossed the Iraqi border into Iran as refugees.

Rafsanjani was reelected president in 1993. The United States suspended all trade with Iran in 1995, accusing Iran of supporting terrorist groups and attempting to develop nuclear weapons. In 1997, Mohammed Khatami, a moderately liberal Muslim cleric, was elected president, which was widely seen as a reaction against the country's repressive social policies and lack of economic progress. Also in 1997, Iran launched a series of air attacks on Iraq to bomb Iranian rebels operating from Iraq. Several European Union countries began renewing economic ties with Iran in the late 1990s; the United States, however, continued to block more normalized relations, arguing that the country had been implicated in international terrorism and was developing a nuclear weapons capacity.

In 1999, as new curbs were put on a free press, prodemocracy student demonstrations erupted at Teheran Univ. and other urban campuses. These were followed by a wave of counterdemonstrations by hard-line factions associated with Ayatollah Khamenei. Reformers won a substantial victory in the Feb., 2000, parliamentary elections, capturing about two thirds of the seats, but conservative elements in the government forced the closure of the reformist press. Attempts by parliament to repeal restrictive press laws were forbidden by Khamenei. Despite these conditions, President Khatami was overwhelming reeelcted in June, 2001. Tensions between reformers in parliament and conservatives in the judiciary and the Guardian Council, over both social and economic changes, increased after Khatami's reelection. In Aug., 2002, a frustrated Khatami called for legislation to limit the powers of the Guardian Council and restore presidential powers to act as head of state and enforce the constitution, and in June, 2003, there were ongoing demonstrations by students in Tehran in favor of reform. In August, however, the Guardian Council rejected a bill aimed at curbing its ability to bar candidates from elections.

Tensions with the United States increased after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in Mar., 2003, as U.S. officials increasingly denounced Iran for pursuing the alleged development of nuclear weapons. Iranian government support for strongly conservative Shiite militias in Iraq also further soured U.S.-Iranian relations. In October, however, Iran agreed, in negotiations with several W European nations, to tougher international inspections of its nuclear installations. Concern over Iran's nuclear program nonetheless continued, and in early 2004 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the country had failed to disclose all aspects of its nuclear program. Meanwhile, an earthquake, centered on Bam in SE Iran, killed more than 26,000 people in Dec., 2003.

In the Feb., 2004, elections conservatives won control of parliament, securing some two thirds of the seats. The Guardian Council had barred many reformers from running, including some sitting members of parliament, and many reformers denounced the move as an attempt to fix the election and called for a electoral boycott. Many Iranians, however, were unhappy with the failure of the current parliament to achieve any significant reforms or diminish the influence of the hard-liners. A significant number of the hard-line conservative members of the new parliament had ties to the Revolutionary Guards, who increased their economic and political influence, but they also faced opposition from more traditional conservatives such as former president Rafsanjani.

In mid-2004 Iran began resuming the processing of nuclear fuel as part of its plan to achieve self-sufficiency in nuclear power production, stating the negotiations with European Union nations had failed to bring access to the advanced nuclear technology that was promised. The action was denounced by the United States as one which would give Iran the capability to develop nuclear weapons. The IAEA said that although Iran had not been fully cooperative, there was no concrete proof that Iran was seeking to develop such arms; however, the IAEA also called for Iran to abandon its plans to produce enriched uranium. In Nov., 2004, Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, but also subsequently indicated that it would not be held to the suspension if the negotiations the EU nations failed. Iran signed an agreement with Russia in Feb., 2005, that called for Russia to supply it with nuclear fuel and for Iran to return the spent fuel to Russia; despite the apparent safeguards in the agreement, it was denounced by the United States. Iran's nuclear energy program remained a contentious international issue in subsequent months.

The presidential elections in June, 2005, were won by the hardline conservative mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who ran on a populist, anticorruption platform. The Guardian Council had initially rejected all reformist candidates, including one of Iran's vice presidents, but permitted him and another reformist to run after an appeal. Ahmadinejad and former president Rafsanjani were the leaders after the first round, but in the runoff Ahmadinejad's populist economic policies combined with Rafsanjani's inability to pick up sufficient reformist support assured the former's win. Ahmadinejad's victory, which was marred by some interference in the balloting from the Revolutionary Guards, gave conservatives control of all branches of Iran's government.

After Iran resumed (Aug., 2005) converting raw uranium into gas, a necessary step for enrichment, the IAEA passed a resolution that accused Iran of failing to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and called for the agency to report Iran to the UN Security Council. The timetable for the reporting, however, was left undetermined.

In the fall of 2005 Ayatollah Khamenei broadened the responsibilities of the Expediency Council by delegating to it some of his governmental oversight responsibilities. The move enhanced the standing and power of Rafsanjani, who had become head of the council in 1997, and was regarded as an attempt to establish a counterweight to the new president (who had been elected with the ayatollah's support) and the more radical conservative elements associated with Ahmadinejad's presidency. Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, issued strong anti-Israel, anti-Holocaust statements, and sought to set a more conservative course for Iran. The country also continued to move forward with its nuclear research program.

In Feb., 2006, the IAEA voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council. In response Iran resumed uranium enrichment and ended surprise IAEA inspections and surveillance of its nuclear facilties. The Security Council called (March) for Iran to suspend its nuclear research program in 30 days, but the statement left unclear what if any response there would be if Iran refused. For its part, Iran remained defiant, and its slow response to a European Union–led negotiating effort and the revelation of an additional, previously unknown enrichment program caused the nations involved (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, and the EU) to refer the issue back to the Security Council in July, 2006. The Council set an Aug. 31 deadline for Iran to stop enrichment, but Iran insisted it would continue its program and ignored the deadline. The Council's veto-holding nations were divided over the subsequent U.S. call for sanctions, but in Dec., 2006, they agreed on sanctions that barred the sale of technology and materials that could be used in Iran's nuclear program. and the international assets of certain companies associated with program were frozen. After a new deadline for stopping enrichment also passed without Iranian action, additional sanctions were imposed in Mar., 2007, but Iran continued with its enrichment activities. A subsequent IAEA report (Aug., 2007) indicated that Iran was continuing to expand its enrichment capabilities while utilitizing them at lower than expected levels.

Also in Dec., 2006, Ahmadinejad's supporters and allies suffered losses in elections for local councils and the Assembly of Experts; more moderate conservatives were the biggest winners, and reformists did sufficiently well to reemerge as a political force. The most significant winner was Rafsanjani, who was reelected to the Assembly of Experts and received the most votes of any Tehran Assembly candidate.

Fifteen British naval personnel were seized in Mar., 2007, by Revolutionary Guards forces in what Iran asserted were its waters. The British disputed the claim, and called for them to be released. After two weeks marked by behind-the-scenes negotiations and Iranian broadcasts of the British personnel saying they had violated Iranian waters (which the personnel, after their release, said were coerced), the British were released.

Tensions between Iran and the United States over Iran's nuclear program and over accusations that Iran was providing support for Shiite groups that had attacked U.S. forces in Iraq became increasingly pronounced in the second half of 2007. There were press reports of Bush administration plans to launch air strikes against Iran, and the United States pressed, unsuccessfully, for stiffer UN sanctions on Iran. In Oct., 2007, the United States imposed additional sanctions on Iran, aimed mainly at Iranian banks, which it said were supporting Iran's nuclear program, and at Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which it charged supported terror attacks against U.S. forces and others.

A November IAEA report indicated that Iran was cooperating with the IAEA (but on a more limited basis than in the past), and a December U.S. intelligence assessment said that Iran appeared to have stopped nuclear weapons design development in 2003 in response to international pressure and now seemed less determined to develop such weapons. Nonetheless, concerns remained with respect to Iran's continuing expansion of its enrichment capabilities and, after the IAEA said that Iran had not proved it did not have a nuclear weapons development program, the UN Security Council imposed a third round of sanctions in Mar., 2008. In the Mar.–Apr., 2008, parliamentary elections, conservatives won roughly 70% of the seats; many reformist candidates were again barred from running.

In May and subsequent months, the IAEA said that Iran continued to fail to provide information about its nuclear programs that would clarify whether it was developing nuclear weapons. Iran subsequently tested longer-range missiles that were capable of hitting Israel, but U.S. intelligence sources indicated that it believed at least one test was not fully successful; in Feb., 2009, Iran successfully launched a satellite for the first time. A value-added tax on shopkeepers provoked a weeklong strike by them in several cities in Oct., 2008, and the government postponed the imposition of the tax for a year.

In the June, 2009, presidential election Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, and two other candidates challenged Ahmadinejad, who was seen as favored by Khamenei. Mousavi appeared to gain broad support as the campaign progressed, but when the tally was announced Ahmadinejad was declared the winner with 63% of the vote. The rapidity of the vote count and other anomalies, including overvoting in 50 of 170 districts and dramatic shifts in voting patterns since 2005, strongly suggested vote rigging, and Mousavi and others denounced the result as fraudulent. There were large demonstrations in support of Mousavi, but the Guardian Council affirmed the result, and after two weeks security forces had forcibly suppressed most public protests.

Mousavi, former president Khatami, and others nonetheless continued to denounce the election, and Rafsanjani criticized the government response to the protests. Opposition members were tried in group trials that antigovernment groups decried as show trials, though Mousavi, Khatami, and other opposition leaders were not arrested. In Dec., 2009, the funeral and memorials for Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri, who was Khomeini's chosen successor until he criticized (1989) the Iranian government on human rights, turned into large antigovernment demonstrations and led to clashes with security forces, but the government soon regained control in the streets.

In Sept., 2009, Iran acknowledged constructing a second nuclear enrichment facility, leading to international calls for IAEA inspections of the site. Although Iran agreed that inspectors could enter the site in October, other discussions concerning its nuclear enrichment were less successful. Western nations asserted that Iran had agreed in principle to shipping enriched uranium outside the country for further enrichment, but Iranian sources and officials insisted that Iran was interested in purchasing enriched uranium and that Iran did not accept an enrichment agreement proposal made by IAEA. The IAEA found nothing of concern at the second enrichment site, but said that Iran's secrecy raised issues about whether other secret sites existed, and later (Mar., 2010) said that Iran was not fully cooperative and as a result the IAEA could not verify that Iran's nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes. The IAEA voted to censure Iran over the site.

In Nov., 2009, Iran announced plans for 10 more sites, and indicated that it did not intend to notify the IAEA about them until six months before they were operational, in contravention of Iran's 2003 agreement. In subsequent months no progress was made concerning the shipment of fuel outside Iran for enrichment, but in Feb., 2010, Iran announced that it was beginning to enrich its uranium to higher levels for use as medical isotopes. In May, 2010, Brazil and Turkey negotiated a deal that called for Iran ship most of its enriched fuel to Turkey in a swap but did not call for Iran to end its enrichment program, and in the face of a new UN sanctions resolution and Iran's continuing with enrichment, it failed to resolve the situation.

The IAEA subsequently (May and Nov., 2011) reported it had evidence that Iran had undertaken work involved in the development of a nuclear weapon, including experiments involving nuclear triggers, and in Jan., 2012, Iran began the process of enriching nuclear fuel to a higher level (20%, used in medicine and a precursor to weapons-grade uranium) than before. The United States and other Western nations imposed additional sanctions in 2011–12 following those revelations; those imposed on many Iranian banks complicated Iran's ability to conducted international trade, leading to a drop in petroleum revenues and financial liquidity problems in Iran. The sanctions also contributed to high inflation and increased unemployment in Iran. In addition to sanctions, since 2010 a number of assassinations of scientists linked to Iran's nuclear program and at least one cyberattack at a nuclear facility have taken place in Iran. In retaliation for the sanctions and other measures, Iran apparently engaged in cyberattacks in the West and Middle East. The IAEA continued its calls for Iran to cooperate, but talks did not produce any resolution until after Hassan Rowhani's election (Aug., 2013) as Iran's president (see below).

In Dec., 2010, the government began reducing subsidies on food and energy; the reductions were forced in part by the high cost of maintaining them in the face of international sanctions against the country. An opposition demonstration in Tehran in Feb., 2011, in support of Egyptian antigovernment protesters was suppressed by the government, which also placed Mousavi and former presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest after they called for the protest. Mousavi and Karroubi were later reported to have been transferred to a prison. The moves were part of a broader government crackdown in early 2011 that was believed to be in reaction to the antigovernment demonstrations in many Arab nations. In subsequent months a split developed between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, and the ayatollah and hardline clerics moved to limit the president's power. The Mar.–May, 2012, parliamentary elections were largely boycotted by reformists and were mainly a contest between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad supporters, with the former winning a sizable majority of the seats. Tensions between Ahmadinejad and his opponents, particularly the parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, continued into 2013.

Six candidates were permitted to run in the 2013 presidential election; former president Rafsanjani was among the many who were disqualified. Hassan Rowhani, a pragmatic cleric and former diplomat who was regarded as the moderate candidate, won the first round with not quite 51% of the vote; the four most conservative candidates combined for some 30% of the vote. The vote was widely regarded as a rejection of both Ahmadinejad's allies and his hardline opponents. Iranian support for Syria became increasingly important beginning in 2013 as the Assad government struggled against various rebel groups. Subsequent negotiations concerning Iran's nuclear program led (Nov., 2013) to an interim agreement that called for Iran to stop enriching uranium above 5% and for it to impose other restrictions on its nuclear programs. In return, Western nations agreed to a limited, but reversible, easing of sanctions. Iran began implementing the restrictions in Jan., 2014.

Negotiations continued, and an accord placing limitations on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting nuclear-related economic sanctions was agreed to in July, 2015. Meanwhile, following the Islamic State's successes against Iraqi forces in mid-2014, Iran provided military aid and advisers, including combat troops and air strikes, to Iraqi forces, especially Iraqi Shiite militia forces. In Jan., 2016, after confirmation of the implementation of the nuclear program terms, international economic sanctions on Iran were lifted; subsequently the International Atomic Energy Agency has continued to certify Iran's compliance with the terms of the agreement.

Other sanctions and embargoes remained in place, and the United States imposed new sanctions aimed at Iran's missile program as a result of an Oct., 2015, Iranian ballistic missile test that the United States, Britain, France, and Germany said violated Security Council resolutions because it was capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Missile tests in subsequent years also drew Western criticism and new sanctions from the United States, but Iran denied that its missiles were designed to carry warheads.

Saudi Arabia's execution in Jan., 2016, of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Saudi Shiite cleric, was bitterly denounced by Iran, and Saudi Arabia subsequently broke off diplomatic relations. The 2016 parliamentary elections produced gains for moderates and reformers aligned with the president, but their failure to secure a majority gave independents the balance of power in the legislature. Rowhani won reelection in May, 2017, with 57% of the vote, easily defeating his main hardline challenger, Ebrahim Raisi. Widespread antigovernment demonstrations, in areas historically supportive of Iran's regime, erupted in late Dec., 2017. The protests against poor economic conditions and corruption were sparked by revelations of proposed increases in support for religious and military organizations in a national budget that included reductions in or elimination of subsidies for citizens.

In May, 2018, U.S. President Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear agreement despite Iran's compliance with its terms, and reimposed U.S. sanctions on Iran; none of the other parties to the accord withdrew. When the U.S. sanctions became fully effective in late 2018, there were initially waivers for a number of Iran's trade partners, including China, but sanctions were tightened in 2019 and additional sanctions imposed in 2019, 2020, and 2021. European parties to the agreement sought in 2019 to bypass U.S. sanctions and preserve at least some trade through a specially created entity, but they also imposed sanctions on Iran in response to its ballistic missile development and assassinations of Iranian opposition figures in Europe. The sanctions contributed to an Iranian recession that began in 2018 and continued into 2020.

In Mar.–Apr., 2019, heavy rains caused Iran's worst flooding in 70 years. Affecting nearly all its provinces, the flooding was particularly devastating in the northeast and in the west and southwest. In May and June, tankers in the region were attacked with explosive mines, which Iran was accused of placing, and in June, Iran shot down a U.S. drone. Iran also increased the amount of uranium it enriched and, in July, the level of enrichment beyond that permitted by the agreement. It then continued to progressively breach the terms of the nuclear deal in an attempt to prod the European signatories to circumvent the U.S. sanctions, and in 2020 the IAEA documented that Iran had produced enough enriched uranium to produce, after further enrichment, an atomic bomb. In mid-2019, Gibraltar's seizure of an Iranian tanker believed to be delivering oil to Syria led Iran to seize a British tanker, a move that further heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf.

In Nov., 2019, fuel price increases sparked antigovernment protests that the government put down with lethal force. In the following month tensions and violence increased in Iraq between U.S. forces and Iranian-backed militias, and in Jan., 2020, a U.S. drone attack killed Iran's Gen. Qasem Soleimani as he arrived in Iraq for meetings. The attack led Iran to announce it would no longer adhere to the nuclear deal, and it launched ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq. Iranian forces also shot down by mistake a Ukrainian passenger jet flying from Tehran; the government initially denied responsibility, and when it acknowledged its involvement the jet's crash, new antigovernment protests occurred. In the Feb., 2020, elections, many moderate candidates were barred from running and turnout dropped to 42.6% as hardline candidates easily won control of the parliament. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the country suffered the worst outbreak in the Middle East.

In June 2021, Iran held elections for a new president, with a carefully selected group of candidates. Ebrahim Raisi successfully won election, a hardliner who had previously headed the country's judiciary, replaced moderate Hassan Rowhani, who was not eligible to run for a third term.


See G. C. Lenczowski, ed., Iran under the Pahlavis (1978); B. Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs (1982); N. R. Keddie, Religion and Politics in Iran (1983); J. Abdulghani, Iraq and Iran (1984); W. Barthold, Historical Geography of Iran (1984); S. Bakhash, Reign of the Ayatollahs (1986); E. Sciolino, Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran (2000); S. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003); C. de Bellaigue, In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs (2005); K. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America (2005); E. Abrahamian, A History of Modern Iran (2008); J. Afary, Sexual Politics in Modern Iran (2009); W. R. Polk, Understanding Iran (2009); R. Takeyh, Guardians of the Revolution (2009); D. Crist, The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran (2012); E. Yarshater, Encyclopædia Iranica (15 vol., 1983–).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(until 1935, Persia).

Iran is a state in Western Asia, bordered by the USSR on the north, Turkey and Iraq on the west, and Afghanistan and Pakistan on the east. Its shores are washed on the north by the Caspian Sea and on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, in which Iran controls several islands, including Hor-muz, Qeshm, and Khark. Area, 1.6 million sq km; population, 30.9 million (1972 estimate; according to the 1966 census, 25.78 million). Tehran is the capital. Iran is subdivided for administrative purposes into ostans (provinces) and chief governorates (governor-generalships; see Table 1).

Table 1. Administrative divisions
1 Area and population include figures for Boyer Ahmadi-ye Sardsir-Kohkiluyeh.2 Area and population included in figures for Khuzestan.3 As a result of changes in administrative divisions, these chief governorates have been combined to form the ostan of Ports and Islands of the Persian and Oman Gulfs, and the new chief governorates Bushehr, Zanjan, and Yazd have been created.
(sq km)
Tehran (Central)...............91 ,5006,151,300Tehran
Gilan...............36,6001 ,957,300Rasht
Eastern Azerbaijan...............67,1002,997,200Tabriz
Western Azerbaijan...............43,7001 ,260,300Rezaiyeh
Khuzesta1...............789002 178 100Ahvaz
Pars...............1 33 3001 882 400Shiraz
Baluchestan and Sistan...............181,600520,200Zahedan
Chief governorates...............
Boyer Ahmadi-ye
Bakhtiari and Chahar
14,800342,600Shahr Kord
Lorestan...............31 300933 900Khorramabad
Ham...............18200287 800Ham
Ports and Islands of the
Persian Gulf3...............
Ports and Islands of the
Gulf of Oman3...............
66,600411,400Bandar Abbas

Iran is a constitutional monarchy. The existing constitution was adopted during the Iranian Revolution of 1905–11; the Fundamental Law was promulgated in December 1906, the Supplementary Fundamental Law in October 1907. Several changes and amendments have been made to the constitution regarding the order of convocation and powers of the Constituent Assembly, the granting to the shah of the right to dismiss Parliament (1949), and the naming of a regent in the event of the shah’s death before his successor’s 20th birthday (1967). The shah, who is the head of state, signs into force laws passed by Parliament, appoints the prime minister, approves the members of the government, and serves as commander in chief.

The highest legislative organ is the bicameral Parliament. The lower house, or Majlis, has 268 deputies, elected for a four-year term by the people. The upper house, or Senate, has 60 senators, 30 of whom are appointed by the shah (15 from Tehran and 15 from the provinces), and 30 of whom are elected (15 from Tehran and 15 from the provinces); they also serve a four-year term. Both chambers have the right to introduce laws; the Senate approves all laws adopted by the Majlis except for those concerning finances. The right to vote is granted to all citizens who have reached the age of 20; this right was accorded to women only in 1963. The law provides for deprivation of the voting rights of members of the armed forces, apostates from Islam, beggars, individuals of unknown occupation, and political and criminal offenders.

Executive power in the government is exercised by the Cabinet of Ministers. Ostans and chief governorates are administered respectively by ostandars and governors, approved by the shah upon recommendation by the government. There are elected bodies at the provincial and village levels (anjomans) and municipal councils in the cities.

The judiciary includes the Supreme Court of Cassation and appellate, provincial, and magistrate courts, as well as commercial, administrative (for state employees), and disciplinary (for judicial employees) courts, military tribunals, police tribunals, and juvenile courts.


Iran is located in the eastern part of the Southwestern Asian highland belt and occupies the greater part of the Iranian Plateau (the western part) and the southeastern Armenian Highlands. Iran has a coastline of more than 2,500 km. The Caspian coast of Iran is low, with sandspits. On the south and southwest are low-lying shores periodically submerged by wind-driven waves. On the southern coast there are tracts of land with mangrove forests.

Relief. More than one-half of Iran’s territory is mountainous. The country’s relief is typified by alternation of mountains of medium height (over which individual volcanoes tower) with wide intermontane depressions separating them. Along the periphery are the northern Iranian, eastern Iranian, and southern Iranian mountains. In the northern Iranian system are the Elburz Mountains (with the volcano Mount Demavend, 5,604 m high and the highest point in Iran) and the Turkmeno-Khorasan Range, which is divided by the Quchan-Meshed valley into two parts: the northern part, the Koppeh Dagh, is partially located in the USSR; the Nishapur Mountains form the southern part. The eastern Iranian mountains (the volcano Mount Taftan, 4,042 m) form several link-shaped, mainly medium-height chains. The southern, outer arcs of the Iranian Plateau, the southern Iranian mountains, include the Zagros (Zard Kuh, 4,548 m) and the Makran mountains. Parallel to the Zagros in the interior stretches the Central Iranian Range, formed by various individual ranges, including the Kuhrud (up to 4,420 m). Between the peripheral ranges, at a height of 1,000–2,000 m, lie internal plateaus with insular massifs and closed depressions. In western Iran, within the Armenian Highland, rise the extinct volcanoes Sabalan (4,821 m) and Sahand (Haramdagh, 3,707 m). The Kordestan (Kurdistan) Range extends along Iran’s northwestern border with Turkey. On the interior plateaus are the extensive desert depressions Dasht-e Kavir, Dasht-e Lut, and Jaz Murian; on the border with Afghanistan are the Sistan, Namakzar, and other deserts. The narrow strip of the southern Caspian Lowland borders on the northern foothills of Elburz. Part of the Kura-Araks lowland is contained within Iran in the northwest, and the Gorgan Plain stretches over northeastern Iran. The desert plain, the garmsir, extends along the southern coastline; the plain of Khuzestan, part of the Mesopotamian lowland, lies in southwestern Iran.


Geological structure and minerals. Iran lies mainly in the Alpide geosynclinal (folded) region. Ancient metamorphic rocks form a Precambrian (Baikal) basement, which is overlaid by a Paleozoic-Triassic platform mantle formed of lagoonal, shallow marine, and continental strata and dislocated during the Alpine stage. The Zagros trough was delineated in the southwest following the Permian and was filled with thick series of concordantly lying marine Mesozoic and Cenozoic deposits. Following the end of the Upper Triassic, Iran underwent the Alpine stage of development, characterized by several stages of folding (before the Cretaceous, Eocene, and Oligocene), intrusions, local metamorphism, and volcanic activity. From the Upper Triassic through the Lower Jurassic, coal-bearing series accumulated, and in the Middle and Upper Jurassic there were evaporite and limestone deposits. In the Cretaceous through early Paleogenic periods, marls and reef limestones were deposited, while troughs uplifted along faults, with the accumulation of limestone-flint and volcanic minerals, which later intensely and complexly dislocated, and with the intrusion of serpentinized ultrabasic mag-matites. Intensive volcanic activity took place during the Eocene in central Iran and on the southern slopes of the Elburz Mountains. In the Oligocene, formation of basic depressions with mo-lasse accumulations began. The cis-Elburz molassic trough arose in the extreme north, opening onto the South Caspian depression. In the Neocene-Anthropogenic period, huge volcanoes were formed along faults: Demavend, Sahand and Sabalan.

Iran is rich in oil (7.5 billion tons in 1971) and gas (over 6 trillion cu m); the largest deposits are associated with the fore-deep of the Zagros. Deposits of coal, deriving mainly from Lower and Middle Jurassic deposits, are contemporaneous with the Elburz and central Iran. There is also iron ore (560 million tons), chrome ore (60 million tons), rare elements, polymetallic and copper ores, bauxites, sulfur, antimony, and barite; there are huge deposits of rock salt associated with Neocenic deposits.


Climate. Most of Iran has a subtropical and continental climate with hot summers; winters are cold in the north and warm in the south. The climate on the Persian and Oman gulf coasts is tropical and hot. The mean temperature in January at Tehran is 2.0°C; in Jask (on the Gulf of Oman), 19.4°C; the corresponding figures for July are 29.4°C and 32.5°C. The annual precipitation usually does not exceed 500 mm, increasing (to 2,000 mm) only on the slopes of the Elburz Mountains and in the southern Caspian Lowland, where dry subtropics give way to semihumid subtropics. Most precipitation occurs during the colder six months of the year. Iran’s driest regions are in the east; annual precipitation is only 50–60 mm in the Sistan depression. Agriculture in the interior regions of Iran is possible only with irrigation.

Rivers and lakes. Iran has little water. The major rivers, the Karun and Sand, flow through peripheral regions. Along Iran’s borders and in its outlying regions flow the Atrak (Atrek), Araks, Hilmand, and Hari rivers and the Shatt al-Arab. There are no major rivers on the internal plateaus. The only navigable river is the Karun. Among the intermontane depressions are several large, closed lakes: Rezaiyeh (Urmia), Deryacheh-ye Namak, and Hamun lakes. Many lakes dry up in summer, turning into salt deserts or salt marshes. For irrigation, dams and reservoirs have been built; underground waters are widely used, and there is a vast network of karez and wells.

Soils and flora. In foothills and on piedmont plains, thin shrublike dessert flora predominates, on gravelly, gray desert soils. There are salt marshes in low-lying areas. In the interior mountain regions, xerophytic steppe flora on mountain brown soils predominates. On the northern slopes of the Elburz are broadleaf forests of beech, hornbeam, chestnut-leaved oak, Persian ironwood, and other species, on brown forest soils. Forest-type xeromorphic flora predominates in the Zagros Mountains. Forests cover about 11 percent of Iran. Regions in southern Iran have mainly savanna-type flora with occasional formations of acacia, prosopis, ziziphus, spurge, and various grasses, on red tropical soils. In low-lying areas and river valleys, meadow and holophytic flora grows on alluvial, sometimes salt-marsh, soils.

Fauna. Iran has approximately 100 species of mammals, about 400 species of birds, and about 80 species of reptiles. Rodents and reptiles predominate in desert and semidesert regions, and in the mountains and foothills of central Iran, mountain goats and sheep, wolves, corsacs, hyenas, and leopards are common. In the mountains of northern Iran live brown bear, wild boar, red deer, and roe; in the tropical regions of the south and southeast, there are mongooses and chameleons. There are numerous endemic types. The seas off Iran are rich in fish. The Caspian Sea has food fish: sturgeon, beluga, and sevruga (stellate sturgeon). Herring along with several other species abound in the Persian Gulf, where there is also pearl fishing.

Natural regions. The northern Iranian region is mountainous, the most humid area in the country, with a complex mixture of semihumid subtropical (Hyrcanian) and desert-steppe landscapes. The mountains of southwestern Iran have forest and shrub landscapes of the dry subtropics. The desert mountains of eastern Iran form the driest region in the country, without any flora over a considerable area. The interior of the Iranian Plateau, with intermontane salt depressions, has desert plains. The southern Iranian mountains have developed badlands and desert landscapes with sparse trees and shrubs. In the coastal lowlands of southern Iran, tropical deserts predominate. The low-lying plains of northern Iran have meadow-salt-marsh landscapes.



Zarubezhnaia Aziia: Fizicheskaia geografiia. Moscow, 1956.
Petrov, M. P. Iran (fiziko-geograficheskii ocherk).Moscow, 1955.
Haas, W. S. Iran. London, 1946.
Monteil, V. Iran. Paris, 1957.
Stöcklin, J. “Tektonika Irana.” Geotektonika, 1966, no. 1.
Stöcklin, J. “Structural History and Tectonics of Iran: A Review.” Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 1968, vol. 52, no. 7.

Iran has more than 30 peoples. Approximately 75 percent of the population speak languages of the Iranian family: Persians (13.5 million; 1970 estimate) and the related Gilani (1.6 million) and Mazanderani (1.2 million), Kurds (2.5 million), Lurs (800,000), Bakhtiari (500,000), Baluchi (650,000), Talyshin (68,000), Tats (300,000), and Hazara, Jamshedi, Afghans, and Tadzhiks (altogether 250,000). More than 20 percent of the population is Turkic-speaking: Azerbaijani (5 million), Qashqais (380,000), Turkmens (450,000), and several tribes—Qajars, Baharlus, Aina-lus, Nafars, Khurasani, and Pichagchi (together about 280,000). There are also peoples of other language groups: Arabs (550,000), Armenians (200,000), Assyrians (75,000), Jews (70,000), Brahui, Georgians, and Gypsies. The Lurs, Bakhtiaris, Qashqais, Afshars, some Kurds and Arabs, and a few groups of Persians lead a nomadic or seminomadic way of life. The official language is Persian, and the official religion is Shiite Islam. The overwhelming majority of Iran’s inhabitants are Muslims, of whom more than 90 percent are Shiites; Turkmens and some Arabs and Kurds are Sunnites. The Armenians, Georgians, and Assyrians are Christians, and the Jews follow the Judaic religion. There is a small group of Persians professing Zoroastrianism, and some Kurds are Yezidis. The official calendar is the Muslim solar calendar, the solar hegira; the lunar hegira and Gregorian calendars are also used. The Iranian year begins on March 21.

The population is increasing through natural growth; the annual population increase between 1966 and 1971 was 3.2 percent (estimate). The economically active segment of the population grew from 6 million (32 percent of the total population, 1956 census) to 7.6 million (30.2 percent, 1966 census). In 1966, 46.2 percent of Iran’s people (56.3 percent in 1956) were engaged in agricultural and forest work; 26.3 percent (20.1 percent), in industry and construction; 3 percent (3.5 percent) in transport and communications; and 22.2 percent (20.1 percent) in the trade and service industries.

According to statistics for 1966, about 300,000 people were factory or plant industrial workers, more than 1 million worked in small handicraft shops, and there were about 800,000 hired agricultural laborers.

Median population density in 1971 was 18.6 people per sq km. According to the 1966 census 46.5 percent of the population was concentrated in northern Iran—in the Central, Eastern Azerbaijan, Gilan, and Mazandaran ostans and the Hamadan chief governorate, which occupy about one-sixth of Iran’s territory. Only 17.2 percent of the population lives in the northeastern, eastern, and southeastern districts, which include more than one-half of the country’s territory.

According to a 1971 estimate 11.9 million people, or 40.7 percent of the entire population, live in cities, compared with 38.1 percent according to the 1966 census and 28.8 percent according to the 1956 census. In 1971 there were 13 cities with an estimated population of more than 100,000, of which the largest were Tehran (3, 378,000), Isfahan (519,000), Meshed (505,000), Tabriz (420,000), Shiraz (324,000), Abadan (300,000), and Ahvaz (256,000).


Narody Perednei Azii. Moscow, 1957.


Primitive communal and slaveholding society in Iran (to the third century A.D.). The most ancient traces of human habitation in Iran belong to the end of the Lower Paleolithic (site from Mousterian times near Behistun). Sites of the Mesolithic and Neolithic hunter-gatherers have been discovered on the southeastern Caspian coast (Gari-Kamarband, from circa the tenth to the second half of the sixth millennium B.C.). Cultivation of grain began in scattered regions between the seventh and fifth millennia. Characteristic of fourth and third millennium sites are Aeneolithic settlements of agriculturalists and cattle-raisers. Painted pottery was developed.

Class society arose in southwestern Iran in the early third millennium B.C., first in separate city-states, later in the state of Elam, whose center was Susa. Elamite society experienced the strong influence of Sumero-Akkadian culture, from which it adopted cuneiform, which supplanted the local hieroglyphic character after the mid-third millennium B.C. The state of Lul-lubi is known to have existed during the second half of the third millennium. About 2200 B.C. mountain tribes of northwestern Iran, the Guti (Kuti), seized Sumer and Akkad for a time; the Kassites, another group of mountain tribes of western Iran, conquered Babylonia between the 18th and 16th century B.C. and ruled it to the end of the 13th century. In the 13th and 12th centuries the Elamite state reached its prime. Elamite territory in the period of its greatest military successes stretched from the Euphrates to central Iran. Most of Iran at that time was still at a late stage of primitive society. Together with agriculture, the population practiced pasturing and seminomadic cattle raising.

During the second millennium B.C., Indo-European tribes of the Iranian group penetrated into Iran. They spoke Indo-Iranian languages and entered Iran through either Central Asia or Transcaucasia; from the name of these peoples, Aryans, came the contemporary name of Iran (ancient Iranian Aryanam, “Country of the Aryans”). Iranian languages began to predominate in Iran in the first millennium B.C. From the ninth to the early seventh century B.C. in the northwestern regions of the Iranian plateau lived the Iranian-speaking Median tribes, who lived in separate communities as shepherds, sometimes as farmers, in fortified settlements; socially, they stood on the threshold of class society. The peoples inhabiting the states of Manna, near Lake Bezaiyeh (Urmia), and Elam were more advanced. Around the seventh century class society developed in all major agricultural regions of Iran. Part of Iran’s territory (western Media) was under Assyrian rule by that time.

The Median state arose in the northwestern corner of the Iranian Plateau around 673–72 as a result of an anti-Assyrian uprising. In 616–05, Media, in league with Babylonia, destroyed the Assyrian power and, having conquered Manna, Urartu, and most of the Iranian Plateau, became itself a world power.

In 550, as a result of a war in 553–50 between Media and its subject kingdom, Persis, power was transferred to the Persian Achaemenid dynasty. The name Persis (Parsa, Pars, now Fars) was applied first by the Greeks and later by other European peoples to the entire country, which came to be known as Persia (this name persisted in Europe until 1935).

The Achaemenid power included ethnically and socio-economically heterogeneous regions. By the end of the sixth century B.C., as a result of the conquests by Cyrus II and his successors, Persia’s borders stretched from the Indus River in the east to the Aegean Sea in the west, and from Armenia in the north to the First Cataract of the Nile in the south. In the Achaemenid state, the king (“king of kings”; modern Persian shahanshah) and the chief nobility owned vast holdings, which were served by the garda, or kurtash, who worked in battalions, receiving sustenance and, occasionally, plots of land held in common. Most scholars consider the garda slaves.

During the reign of Darius I (522–486) a significant portion of the Persian nation received positions of command in the army and the administration of the empire and was freed from tributes and obligations. The state was divided into satraps. Together with old local cults, one of the early variants of Zoroastrianism was probably dominant; the question of the character of ancient Iranian religion is still under discussion. Besides Old Persian, other official languages were Babylonian, Elamite, and Aramaic.

The struggle for control of trade routes between East and West drew the Achaemenids into prolonged wars with Greece, and in 330 the Achaemenid state fell to Alexander the Great. After his death and the subsequent struggle between his military commanders, Iran became part of the Hellenistic state of Seleu-cus I. Characteristic of Seleucid rule was a system of self-governing, slave-owning city-states, with whose internal affairs the central power practically never interfered. Certain of the city-states arose as Greco-Macedonian colonies, and others were the product of the granting of city-state status to local cities. The city-states came to be dominated by Greek city-state ideology and culture and by the Greek language. The situation of the Iranian population outside the city-states is insufficiently known.

In the mid-third century B.C., the Parthian Empire was formed on the contemporary Irano-Turkmenian border; by the mid-second century it ruled all Iran. The importance of the city-states declined. With the king, councils of nobles and Magi played a major role. The dominant religion was a form of Zoroastrianism. The official languages of the Parthian chancelleries were Greek and Parthian, a Middle Iranian language.

In the first century B.C. Parthia was drawn into a lengthy struggle with Rome. Toward the second century A.D. various vassal and dependent kingdoms grew stronger, leading to the weakening of the central state. In A.D. 224, Ardashir I, the ruler of Persis, a Parthian dependency, defeated the last Parthian king, Artabanus V, and founded the Sassanid state.

Formation and development of feudalism (third to early 17th centuries). During the reign of the Sassanids (third to seventh centuries), the slaveholding order became obsolete in Iran. Cities lost their privileges. Manumission of slaves increased, and slaves became owners of part of what they produced. At the same time, there occurred the transformation of the great military-administrative nobility and the communal leadership into a feudal nobility; the commune members were possibly directly dependent on these feudal nobles. The question of the exact time of the birth of feudal society in Iran remains unresolved; it is dated between the third to fourth and sixth to seventh centuries.

In the late Sassanid period, Iranian society was officially subdivided into four classes: the priesthood, military nobility, officials, and vassals. Apparently this division derives from the ancient Iranian division of society into priestly, warrior, and farmer-shepherd classes. The canon of the Avesta and Zoroas-trian dogma were formally fixed in Sassanid Iran. Social protest against church and state assumed the character of religious heresy; in the mid-third century, Manichaeanism appeared; Mazdakism flourished from the late fifth century.

After the destruction of the Mazdakist movement, Shah Khosrow I Anushirvan (ruled 531–79) introduced reforms in taxation, administration, military service, and other areas directed toward supporting the middle and lower farmers; these reforms reinforced the king’s power and weakened the administrative-landowner nobility, which had striven towards political independence from the central state.

The strengthened Sassanid state conquered South Arabia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt and threatened the survival of Byzantium. But feudal-separatist tendencies gained strength once more, as a result of which the Sassanids were unable to oppose Arab conquest in the seventh century.

As a result of the Arab conquests, Iran became part of the Arab Caliphate. Feudalization continued, although it was delayed initially. The wars of the Arabs forced a large segment of the local population back into slavery; they were used in agriculture, irrigation, trades, and state mines. Part of the land was converted into state land and into the property of the Arab nobility under the mulk laws; vast territories were given to Arab tribes. Iran preserved the Sassanid system of taxation, but the land tax, or kharaj, was increased. Islam began to spread in Iran, becoming the religion of the majority of the population in the tenth century. The Arabic language was for a long period the official and literary language.

Arab rule in Iran stirred popular discontent, which was reflected in peasant rebellions as early as the 680’s. The ideological form of these uprisings was expressed either in the Islamic trends of Shiism and Kharijism or in the teachings of the Khurramites, who pressed for social equality and the granting of lands to free village communes. The national movement against the Umayyad caliphs, which began in the oasis of Merv in 747 under the leadership of Abu Muslim, spread throughout Iran. The victory of the Abbasids, who came to power in 750 as a result of Abu Muslim’s rebellion, was advantageous to the Iranian feudal nobility, who had earlier been in opposition to the Umayyads and who were now brought to power by the Abbasids. The disillusionment of the peasants, whose lot did not improve under the Abbasids, and the weight of their tax burden served as the sources of new peasant rebellions under the leadership of Sunbad the Magian (755) and Ustadh Sis (767); there was the rebellion of the Sorkh Alam (Red Banners, 778–79). The Khurramite sect played a leading role in the peasant war under the leadership of Babek around 816–37; its influence on the peasant uprising of 839 in Tabaristan was significant.

Emirates were formed in Iran in the ninth and tenth centuries, depending only nominally on the Arab Caliphate: the Tahirids in Khorasan (821–73) and the Saffarids in Seistan (from 861) and Khorasan (873–900). In 900, Khorasan and all eastern Iran became part of the Samanid state (to 999); the Buyid state (935–1055) ruled in western Iran and Iraq.

An economic and cultural recovery in the tenth and early 11th centuries was facilitated in Iran by the formation in the tenth century of a developed feudal society, the growth of feudal-type cities and of transit trade, the decline of Arab suzerainty, and the creation of local states. Large irrigation works were undertaken, and the growth of handicraft production, mainly of textiles, was significant. The local landowners, feudal lords who were associated with the major mercantile companies controlling the caravan and sea trades, were dominant in the urban structure. Unlike those in the medieval West, the major merchants of Iran, together with the feudal lords, fought against movements of the craftsmen and urban poor. For this reason, no urban self-governing bodies developed in Iran, although there were corporations of craftsmen and governing bodies in certain quarters.

After the fall of the Samanid state, eastern Iran, together with part of Central Asia and what is now Afghanistan, became part of the Ghaznavid state. From the 11th century there were Turkic (Oghuz) incursions into Iran. One horde, the Seljuk, smashed Ghaznavid forces in 1040 at Dandanqan, conquered all of Iran and its neighboring countries, and created the Seljuk state. Under the reign of the Seljuk sultan Malik Shah (ruled 1072–92), the Oghuz military nobility, which had conquered many lands, became the source of centrifugal tendencies, while the Iranian administrative nobility supported a strong, centralized power. The champion of the policy favoring a centralized state was Malik Shah’s vizier, Nizam al-Mulk. The increase of feudal frac-tionalization, however, led in the early 12th century to the disintegration of the Seljuk state into a number of sultanates, within which principalities ruled by powerful vassals (atabegs) took shape.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, the class struggle in the cities between the feudal lords and merchant class, on the one hand, and the craftsmen and peasants of suburban districts, on the other, was exacerbated; it assumed the character of a religious feud between the Sunnites (the nobility and mercantile class) and the Shiites (mainly the lower urban classes and the peasantry), particularly the Ismailite sect, as well as between the faithful of various Sunnite movements representing various urban classes. In the mountains of Elburz and Kuhistan, an Ismailite state with its center at Alamut (1090–1256) was formed. During the 12th century internecine fighting and feudal rebellions were frequent.

In the late 12th century, nearly all of Iran was seized by Khwa-rezm Shah Takash (ruled 1172–1200).

Between 1220 and 1256, Iran was conquered by the Mongols. This conquest was accompanied by the destruction of numerous cities, the desolation of entire regions, and many deaths. A predatory system of taxes and obligations was introduced, and the peasants were tied to the land. These conditions led to a drop in the productive powers of the country, to the mass flight of peasants into the mountains and forests, and to the formation of peasant resistance forces.

From the mid-13th through the 14th century, Iran was part of the Mongol ulus (territorial division of the Mongol Empire) of the Hulaguid il khans. II Khan Ghazan Khan (ruled 1295–1304) accepted Islam, became close to the Iranian administrative nobility, and with the help of his vizier, Rashid al-Din, introduced a series of reforms that facilitated a certain economic uplift, but Iran’s economy was far from regaining its early 13th-century level. The widespread conditional grants of lands, the iqta, which evolved into hereditary ownership, the fall of cities and of commodity production, and the weakening of economic ties between districts all led to an increase in feudal fractionaliza-tion. In the 1340’s the Hulaguid state split apart and several feudal states arose in its place, the largest of which were the states of the Jelairids (1336–1411) and Mozafferids (from the 1340’s or 1350’s to 1393).

The soyurghal, a type of feudum, became widely distributed in 14th-century Iran, along with the institution of tarkhans, feudal lords who enjoyed immunity and other personal privileges. The suzerainty of the Mongol conquerors led to numerous uprisings, which proceeded under the ideological cover of Muslim sectarianism. The most significant antifeudal and anti-Mongol uprisings were the Serbadars’ uprising in Khorasan in the 1330’s through the 1380’s and the Said movement in Mazanda-ran and Gilan in 1350, in the course of which the Serbadar and Said states were created. Between 1380 and 1393, Iran was conquered by the forces of Timur (Tamerlane). The Serbadar state was wiped out, and the popular movements in Mazandaran and Gilan were suppressed. After Timur’s death eastern Iran was under Timurid rule; the Kara-Koyunlu state was established in western Iran.

A wave of popular rebellions led by “extremist” Shiite sects rolled over Iran in the early 15th century; uprisings occurred in Sabzevar in 1405 and in Mazandaran in 1406, among others. Between 1453 and 1457 all western Iran to the Dast-e Kavir was conquered by the Kara-Koyunlu state and then, in 1468, by the Ak-Koyunlu forces of Uzun Hasan. Eastern Iran remained under Timurid rule. Large landholdings and feudal fragmentation increased in 15th-century Iran. The influence of the religious feudal magnates, the Safavids of Ardabil, increased with support from the nomadic Turkic tribes of Asia Minor, the Kizilbash. Taking advantage of general discontent among the popular masses and of internal friction in the Ak-Koyunlu state, the Kizilbash, led by Ismail Safavid, revolted (1499) and, having overwhelmed the Ak-Koyunlu state, went on to conquer all Iran between 1501 and 1510, thus laying the foundations for the Safavid state. In 1502, Shiism was declared the state religion. After 1514 the Safavids fought a protracted war with Ottoman Turkey for control of Mesopotamia, Kurdistan, and Transcaucasia.

After suppressing the popular uprisings of 1570–71 and 1592 in Gilan and 1571–73 in Tabriz, as well as internal feuds and wars, Shah Abbas I (ruled 1587–1629), with the help of administrative and other reforms, succeeded in strengthening centralized Safavid power and in securing the submission of important parts of Transcaucasia and other regions contiguous to Iran. State lands (divani) increased together with lands held by the shah (hesseh). The Safavids distributed land to the nobility and to civil servants, not as soyurghals, but as toyuls (personal, lifetime grants without the right of administrative immunity). Throughout nearly all of the 17th century, a comparative economic upsurge occurred in agriculture, the construction of irrigation works, commodity production, and the development of trade (particularly foreign trade) and crafts.

Collapse of feudal society (late 17th and 18th centuries). Iran entered a period of economic and political decline in the late 17th century. The rise in feudal rents, obligations, and taxes led to the ruin of the Iranian village, decreases in production and trade, the collapse of the crafts industries, and the exacerbation of class contradictions. In the late 17th century and the early 18th, antifeudal uprisings occurred in various parts of the country; national liberation movements grew among the Afghans, Turkmens, Kurds, Armenians, Georgians, and Azerbaijani. Uprisings by the Afghan tribes between 1709 and 1722 culminated in their seizure in 1722 of Isfahan, the Safavid capital. The brief period of Afghan rule gave rise to a popular anti-Afghan movement. Nader Khan Afshar led the anti-Afghan struggle (1726–30) and also expelled the Turks, who had invaded northwestern and central Iran in 1723. The immense feudal empire of Nader Shah was formed by his successful military campaigns but collapsed immediately after his murder by conspiratorial khans in 1747. Feudal wars followed these events until the end of the 18th century. The rule of Karim Khan Zand (ruled 1760–79), when the endless succession of feudal battles was halted, constituted the sole exception. In the late 18th century, after a long war between the Zand and Qajar khans, the Qajar dynasty was established in Iran.

Penetration of foreign capital and transformation into a semicolony; the birth of bourgeois society (19th century to 1917). From the late 18th century, weakened feudal Iran became the target of the European capitalist powers’ expansionism. The efforts of Great Britain and France to enchain Iran led to the establishment of a regime of capitulation and its acceptance of one-sided treaties with Great Britain, France, Russia, and other European countries, as well as the USA. As a result of the Russo-Iranian wars of the 19th century, large territories in Transcaucasia seized earlier by Iran became part of the Russian Empire by the Treaty of Gulistan (1813) and the Treaty of Turkmanchai (1828).

The infiltration of foreign capital and the transformation of Iran into a market for the sale of European industrial goods led to a deepening of the crisis of the feudal system and the sharpening of social contradictions. The growth of popular discontent was reflected in the anti-feudal Babi uprisings of 1848–52.

A part of the ruling class, the melkdars (landowners who held land as personal property and were connected with markets), sought a way out of the crisis by limiting foreign great power influence and strengthening central power and national independence. The reforms of Mirza Taqi Khan Emir Nezam pursued these goals; their application in practice, however, was complicated as a result of opposition by the Iranian reactionaries, by foreign powers, particularly Great Britain, and by the weakness of the internal forces interested in the reforms. Nonetheless, several advances in the economy and culture of Iran could be detected in the mid-19th century, through Emir Nezam’s reforms.

In the last third of the 19th century and the early 20th, Iran became a semicolony of the imperialist powers. Great Britain and tsarist Russia received a number of telegraph, railroad, and other concessions. The British Shahanshah Bank (1889) and Russian Discount-Loan Bank (1890) were opened. In 1901, the British received a concession for the exploitation of Iranian oil; the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was founded in 1909. British (1892) and Russian (1900 and 1902) loans were accepted on usurious terms. Foreign imports increased many times over. Foreign advisers were put in charge of Iranian customs and finances. A Persian cossack force was formed in the late 19th century under the command of tsarist officers. Representatives of tsarist Russia ruled in the north of Iran, and British interests dominated the south. Competition by foreign products stifled the embryonic national industries, undermined the crafts, and pushed the mercantile classes into bankruptcy. Agriculture in Iran was forced to conform to the demands of a foreign market. Although various trade, railroad, and industrial companies and enterprises were established in Iran, the presence of a semicolonial regime complicated the development of bourgeois society.

National consciousness grew in the late 19th century, and bourgeois nationalist ideas spread, represented by such prominent figures as Malkom Khan, A. Talibuf, Zeyn al-Abedin Maraghei, and Aqa Khan Kermani. Various secret antigovernment societies were founded; these advanced bourgeois demands.

The intensification of imperialist oppression and the exacerbation of social contradictions prepared the way for the antifeudal and anti-imperialist Iranian Revolution of 1905–11, during which a constitution was drawn up, the Majlis was convoked, the toyuls were revoked, and several other progressive transformations were effected. Democratic forces created anjomans, fidai regiments, and mojahed organizations. In a number of districts of Iran, the antifeudal peasant movement flourished, and there were strikes by workers and civil servants. The democratic movement in Iran reached its zenith during the Tabriz uprising of 1908–09. Russian revolutionaries, particularly in Transcaucasia, greatly assisted the rebel inhabitants of Tabriz. After the overthrow of Muhammad Ali Shah in July 1909 (ruled from 1907) liberal feudal landowners seized power together with the powerful commercial bourgeoisie, who desired to halt the onslaught of revolution and to limit the democratic movement. Great Britain and tsarist Russia, which in 1907 had concluded an agreement on the division of Iran into British and Russian spheres of influence and a neutral zone, viewed the Iranian Revolution with hostility and used their forces stationed in Iran to suppress the revolutionary movement. Imperialist Germany attempted to profit from anti-British and anti-Russian sentiment in Iran to strengthen its own position. The USA pursued the same policy, sending a mission to Iran in 1911 headed by M. Shuster. The Iranian Revolution was finally suppressed at the end of 1911 by the united forces of British imperialism, Russian tsarism, and Iranian reactionaries. The defeat of the Iranian Revolution paved the way for Iran’s eventual enslavement by Great Britain and tsarist Russia.

During World War I, Iran became an arena for military activities and subversion by the contending powers. Northern Iran was occupied by the armies of tsarist Russia, while the British occupied the south. An anti-imperialist movement, particularly strong in Gilan, where the Jangalists operated, sprang up in the north, west, and south of the country.

Iran since 1918.THE UPSURGE OF NATIONAL LIBERATION AND DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENTS BETWEEN 1918 AND 1922. The rise of the anti-imperialist and democratic movement in Iran began in 1918 under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The labor movement blossomed, the Jangalists were active, and there were anti-British tribal attacks in the south. The peoples of Iran received great support in their anti-imperialist struggle from the Soviet government, which revoked all unequal treaties and agreements by which tsarism had bound Iran, and refused in favor of the Iranian people all rights and privileges received from Iran during the tsarist period. Russian forces were evacuated from Iran.

To suppress the national liberation movement and to convert Iran into a colony and armed camp for intervention against Soviet Russia, the British imperialists occupied all of Iran in 1918 and in 1919 forced upon Iran an exploitative agreement. The government of Vosugh al-Dauleh, which was created under British control on Aug. 6, 1918, and which ruled until June 25, 1920, conducted a policy hostile to the young Soviet Republic. The Soviet mission in Tehran was raided with its connivance on Nov. 3, 1918, and White Guards murdered the Soviet ambassador, I. O. Kolomiitsev, in August 1919 near the Iranian port town of Bandar-e Gaz. The British occupation and the reactionary policies of the Vosugh al-Dauleh government called forth an even mightier wave of the national liberation movement than before, particularly in Iranian Azerbaijan (1920), Gilan and Mazandaran (1920—21), and Khorasan (1921). Turkmen and Kurdish revolts occurred between 1923 and 1925. The Iranian Communist Party was formed in 1920. British plans for the complete subjugation of Iran collapsed because of the anti-imperialist movement in Iran and neighboring countries, the Leninist policy of friendship and equality followed by the Soviet state in its relations with the peoples of the East, and the establishment of Soviet rule in the Transcaucasian and Transcaspian regions. The British imperialists were forced to refrain from attempts to subject Iran to their domination with the help of the Iranian feudal aristocracy.

On Feb. 21, 1921, regiments of Persian cossacks under the command of Reza Khan accomplished a coup d’etat. The new government headed by Sayyid Zia al-Din, in which Reza Khan later became war minister, tried to stop the growth of the democratic movement. At the same time, under the pressure of popular opinion, it was forced to revoke the 1919 Anglo-Iranian Treaty. On Feb. 26, 1921, it signed a treaty with the RSFSR, the first treaty on equal terms concluded by Iran since the end of the century-old regime of capitulation, with great significance for the strengthening of Iran’s independence.

THE LANDOWNERS’ AND BOURGEOIS REGIME OF REZA SHAH (TO WORLD WAR II). Relying on a reorganized army, Reza Khan fought the powerful, separatist feudal magnates to centralize the country. On Oct. 31, 1925, the fifth Majlis declared the overthrow of the Qajar dynasty, and the Constituent Assembly on Dec. 12, 1925, proclaimed Reza Khan the shah of Iran under the name of Reza Shah Pahlavi. Laws and statutes facilitating bourgeois development were promulgated: the judicial reform of 1927–28, the Civil Code of 1929, the revocation of the capitulations in 1928, the law of 1930 against forcible land seizure, the law of 1934 on the sale of state lands, the introduction of autonomous customs duties, and the implementation of a number of protectionist measures. Semifeudal institutions persisted in the countryside. In the 1930’s, several transformations were effected in cultural and everyday life: the establishment of secular schools and institutions of higher learning, the 1935 decree on the abolition of the zashnak (veil), and the clothing reform. At the same time, persecution continued, not only of the workers’ and peasants’ movements, but of any sort of opposition or democratic movement. The rights of numerous national minorities were ignored as a matter of policy.

The world economic crisis of 1929–33, which affected Iran’s economy, had a particularly disastrous effect on agriculture. The area under cultivation shrank, landowner requisitioning increased, indirect taxes grew, and the ranks of the poor and the jobless swelled. These conditions led to exacerbation of the class struggle and to an upsurge of the peasants’ and workers’ movement, such as the peasant partisan movement in Khorasan, peasant and tribal uprisings in southern Iran, and strikes at the petroleum works of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and at Isfahan, in Mazandaran, and elsewhere. The workers’, peasants’, and tribesmen’s movement was suppressed by force of arms.

Until the 1930’s, the Iranian government conducted a foreign policy consonant with Iran’s national interests. Soviet-Iranian economic and political relations developed successfully. In 1927, a Soviet-Iranian treaty guaranteeing neutrality was signed, but the Iranian government began to depart in the 1930’s from a policy of friendly relations with the USSR. Fascist Germany, which spared no effort in trying to turn Iran into an anti-Soviet armed camp, made inroads in the country.

WORLD WAR II. Germany, having begun a war of aggression against the USSR, stepped up its anti-Soviet agitation in Iran. Considering the hostile intrigues of Hitlerite agents a threat to the national interests of the USSR, the Soviet government was compelled (on the basis of the Soviet-Iranian Treaty of 1921) in August 1941 to send its forces temporarily into Iranian territory; British forces were introduced into Iran at the same time, and American military units arrived in late 1942 (after the war, the Allied forces left Iran). On Sept. 16, 1941, Reza Shah abdicated. His son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, became shah. On Jan. 29, 1942, the USSR, Great Britain, and Iran signed a treaty of alliance. The USSR and Great Britain pledged themselves to respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Iran and to defend it from aggression by any power. Iran for its part pledged itself to cooperate with the Allies in every way, particularly by allowing them to use and control all Iranian communications and transportation facilities. On Sept. 9, 1943, Iran declared war on Germany, but did not take part in the fighting. In the Tripartite Declaration on Iran of Dec. 1, 1943, at the Tehran Conference of the leaders of the three Allied powers, the USSR, the USA, and Britain, it was resolved to accord Iran all necessary economic aid; the desire to preserve the country’s complete independence, sovereignty, and territorial inviolability was affirmed. The USSR, despite wartime hardships, gave Iran considerable assistance, supplying it with industrial goods and provisions.

The USA tried to profit from the situation created by World War II by consolidating its position in Iran. The Americans sent advisers to the Iranian army, gendarmerie, and police; an American financial and economic mission headed by A. C. Millspaugh was sent to Iran in 1943.

SINCE WORLD WAR II. The defeat of fascist Germany and militarist Japan served as a powerful impetus to the growth of the democratic, anti-imperialist movement in Iran in 1945–46 (in Iranian Azerbaijan, Iranian Kurdistan, and other regions). The authority and influence of the Tudeh Party, formed in 1941, grew steadily. The government of Qavam al-Saltaneh, which came to power in 1946, relying on US and British aid, crushed the blossoming democratic movement of Iran in late 1946. The country’s democratic forces continued the struggle in difficult circumstances against internal reaction and Anglo-American imperialism. Active measures against the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (before 1935, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company) began in 1948. (The term of the concession had been lengthened by 60 years by an Anglo-Iranian treaty in 1933.)

To crush the democratic movement, an attempt on the shah’s life, made by provocateurs on Feb. 4, 1949, served as the pretext for the outlawing of the Tudeh Party, the closing of progressive newspapers, and mass arrests. The movement against the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company grew stronger in 1950 and early 1951, however, and mass rallies and demonstrations were held demanding the revocation of the Treaty of 1933, the nationalization of the oil company and all other imperialist concessions, and the granting of the right of free operation to democratic organizations and the press. The movement for nationalization of the oil industry was led by the National Front, formed in 1949 and headed by M. Mossadegh. Popular demonstrations against the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company coincided with the mass movement for peace. (In 1950 the Iranian Society of Defenders of Peace was founded.)

On Mar. 15, 1951, the Majlis passed a law nationalizing the oil industry. On Apr. 29, 1951, a government headed by Mossadegh was formed. The principal goal of the new government’s program was the implementation of the law of Mar. 15, 1951. The American imperialists tried at first to use the new movement for nationalization of the oil industry to undermine the British position and to seize Iranian oil for themselves; the growth of the anti-imperialist movement, however, forced them to act in concert with Great Britain and to pressure Iran not to implement the nationalization law. However, the Mossadegh government did not accept US and British demands. In October 1951, all British specialists were expelled from the wells and refineries. Imperialist intrigues (diplomatic and economic pressure and assorted provocations) and attempts in July 1952 to overthrow Mossadegh collapsed as a result of massive popular demonstrations. On Oct. 22, 1952, diplomatic relations with Great Britain were broken, and all British representatives were expelled from Iran.

At the same time, striving to prevent the continued growth of a democratic workers’ and peasants’ movement, the Mossadegh government, reflecting the interests of the national bourgeoisie, did not undertake radical measures against the onslaught of the imperialists and Iranian reactionaries. There was a coup d’etat on Aug. 19, 1953, and the Mossadegh government was overthrown. General Zahedi became premier. The new government reestablished diplomatic relations with Great Britain in December 1953 and in 1954 signed an agreement with the International Oil Consortium, granting it a concession to exploit southern Iranian oil. In 1955, Iran joined the aggressive Baghdad Pact (since 1959, CENTO, or Central Treaty Organization). New agreements on oil with foreign companies were signed. The infiltration of capital from the Federal Republic of Germany into the Iranian economy increased. The number of American and other foreign advisers (in the army, state apparatus, and economy) reached several thousand by 1958. The sum of foreign loans by early 1961 was about $700 million. The cost of living skyrocketed 1,600 percent over the 1936 level. Agriculture did not supply the population with sustenance, and Iran was forced to import large quantities of wheat and other foodstuffs every year.

In 1960–61 the popular struggle of the masses against foreign imperialist penetration into Iran grew stronger, demanding an end to vestiges of feudalism and calling for democratic freedoms. Under the pressure of the popular movement, the government-falsified election returns to the Majlis were twice recalled (August 1960 and May 1961). Striving to put an end to the economic and political crisis, the government of Iran began in the early 1960’s to enforce a series of socioeconomic reforms commonly referred to in Iran as the White Revolution. Agricultural reform limited the size of large landholdings; excess portions of landowners’ properties were sold through an agricultural bank to peasants who had previously rented them. Despite its limited character, the agricultural reform was a blow to large feudal landowners’ holdings, opening up wider possibilities for the development of capitalism in Iranian agriculture. Important advances were realized in industry as well. Together with changes in agriculture and industry, several measures were introduced to improve the education and health programs of the country (educational and public health corps were created). In 1963 women were accorded suffrage.

In the 1960’s, Iran began a gradual departure from its previous one-sided orientation toward the USA and the Western European capitalist countries.

The Soviet government undertook systematic steps toward the improvement of Soviet-Iranian relations; on its initiative, an agreement on the regulation of border and financial questions was signed in 1954, and in 1957 an agreement very favorable to Iran on transit was concluded, as well as a treaty on frontier formalities and on the regulation of border conflicts. However, the 1959 suspension by the Eqbal government (1957–60) of Soviet-Iranian negotiations on the conclusion of a mutual nonag-gression pact and Iran’s signing on Mar. 5, 1959, of a bilateral military pact with the USA impeded the full normalization of Soviet-Iranian relations. Considerable improvement in Soviet-Iranian relations was facilitated by the exchange of notes between the USSR and Iran on Sept. 15, 1962, and the Iranian government’s assurances that it would not permit any foreign state to operate missile bases on Iranian territory and that it would not allow Iran to become the means of aggression against the USSR.

A number of agreements between the USSR and Iran were signed between 1963 and 1972 on economic, technical, scientific, and cultural cooperation and on cooperation in vocational training. A number of important industrial and other projects have been and are being constructed with Soviet assistance. An important role in the widening and strengthening of good-neighbor relations is played by mutual contacts between leading statesmen of the two countries. Iran signed economic agreements with other socialist countries as well during the 1960’s. Iran remains a member of CENTO despite these contacts, and the 1959 bilateral military agreement between Iran and the USA remains in force.

I. M. D’IAKONOV (to the seventh century),
I. P. PETRUSHEVSKII (seventh to 16th century), and
M. S. IVANOV (since the 17th century)


Works by the founders of Marxism-Leninism
Marx, K. Anglo-persidskaia voina. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 12.
Marx, K. “Dogovor s Persiei.” Ibid.
Marx, K. “Voina protiv Persii.” Ibid.
Engels, F. “Perspektivy anglo-persidskoi voiny.” Ibid.
Engels, F. “Persiia i Kitai.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Goriuchii material v mirovoi politike.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17. (Especially pages 174–77.)
Lenin, V. I. “Sobytiia na Balkanakh i v Persii.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “O napadenii russkogo pravitel’stva na Persiiu [Rezoliutsii VI (Prazhskoi) konferentsii RSDRP].” Ibid., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad na II Vserossiiskom s’ezde kommunisticheskikh organizatsii narodov Vostoka 22 noiab. 1919 g.” Ibid., vol. 39
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad Vserossiiskogo Tsentral’nogo Ispolnitel’nogo Komiteta i Soveta Narodnykh Komissarov o vneshnei i vnutrennei politike 22 dek. 1920.” Ibid., vol. 42.
Iran in ancient and medieval times
Istoriia iranskogo gosudarstva i kul’tury. Moscow, 1971.
D’iakonov, M. M. Ocherk istorii Drevnego Irana. Moscow, 1961.
Masson, V. M. Sredniaia Aziia i Drevnii Vostok. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Grantovskii, E. A. Ranniaia istoriia iranskikh piemen Perednei Azii. Moscow, 1970.
Iusifov, Iu. B. Elam. Moscow, 1968.
D’iakonov, I. M. Istoriia Midii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Aliev, I. Istoriia Midii. Baku, 1960.
Dandamaev, M. A. Iran pri pervykh Akhemenidakh. Moscow, 1963.
Lukonin, V. G. Kul’tura sasanidskogo Irana. Moscow, 1969.
Pigulevskaia, N. V. Goroda Irana v rannem srednevekov’e. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Bartol’d, V. V. Soch., vols. 1–7. Moscow, 1963–71.
Istoriia Irana s drevneishikh vremen do kontsa XVIII v. Leningrad, 1958.
Ali-Zade, A. A. Sotsial’no-ekonomicheskaia ipoliticheskaia istoriia Azerbaidzhana XIII-XIV vv. Baku, 1956.
Petrushevskii, I. P. Zemledelie i agrarnye otnosheniia v Irane XIII-XIV vv. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Petrushevskii, I. P. Islam v Irane.[Leningrad] 1966.
Petrushevskii, I. P. Ocherki po istorii feodal’nykh otnoshenii v Azerbaidzhane i Armenii v XVI-nach. XIX vv. Leningrad, 1949.
Efendiev, O. A. Obrazovanie Azerbaidzhanskogo gosudarstva Sefevidov v nach. XVI v. Baku, 1961.
Frye, R. N. Nasledie Irana. Moscow, 1972. (Translated from English.)
Pirniya, H. Iran-e bastan(Ancient Iran), vols. 1–5. Tehran, 1932–63.
Ravendi, M. Tarikh-e Ejtema-ye Iran(Social History of Iran), vols. 1–3. Tehran, 1966.
Bastani Parizi. Siyasat va ettesad-e asr-e Safavi.(Policies and Economy of the Safavids.) Tehran, 1969.
Vanden Berghe, L. Archeologie de I’Iran ancien.[Paris] 1959.
Hinz, W. Das Reich Elam. Stuttgart [1964].
Olmstead, A. T. E. History of the Persian Empire[2nd ed.]. Chicago, 1959.
Christensen, A. L’lran sous les Sassanides, 2nd ed. Copenhagen, 1944.
Herzfeld, E. The Persian Empire. Wiesbaden, 1968.
Widengren, G. Die Religionen Irons. Stuttgart [1965].
Ghirshman, R. Parthes et Sassanides. Paris, 1962.
Ghirshman, R. Persia: From the Origins to Alexander the Great. London, 1964.
Spuler, B. Iran in frühislamischer Zeit. Wiesbaden, 1952.
Spuler, B. Die Mongolen in Iran, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1955.
Lockhart, L. The Fall of the Safavi Dynasty and the Afghan Occupation of Persia. Cambridge, 1958.
Modern and contemporary Iran
Ivanov, M. S. Ocherk istorii Irana. Moscow, 1952.
Ioannisian, A. R. Prisoedinenie Zakavkaz’ia k Rossii i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia v nachale XIX stoletiia. Yerevan, 1958.
Ivanov, M. S. Noveishaia istoriia Irana. Moscow, 1965.
Ivanov, M. S. Iran segodnia. Moscow, 1969.
Ivanov, M. S. Rabochii klass sovremennogo Irana. Moscow, 1969.
Ivanova, M. N. Natsional’no-osvoboditel’noe dvizhenie v Irane v 1918–1922 gg. Moscow, 1961.
Abdullaev, Z. Z. Formirovanie rabochego klassa Irana. Baku, 1968.
Shamide, A. I. Iranda fahla va hamkarlar harakatt (1941–46).Baku, 1961.
Shamide, A. I. Rabochee i profsoiuznoe dvizhenie v Irane posle vtoroi mirovoi voiny, 1946–1953 gg. Baku, 1965.
Agakhi, A. Rasprostranenie idei marksizma-leninizma v Irane. Baku, 1961.
Kesravi, A. Tarikh-e mashruteh-ye Iran(History of the Iranian Constitution), vols. 1–3. Tehran, 1954.
Fateh, Mustafa. Panjahsaleh-ye naft-e Iran(Fifty Years of Iranian Oil), vol. 1. Tehran, 1956.
Browne, E. G. The Persian Revolution of 1905–09. Cambridge, 1910.
Bibliographical publications
“Sovetskaia bibliografiia po Drevnemu Iranu.” In N. M. Postovskaia, Izuchenie drevnei istorii Blizhnego Vostoka v SSSR (1917–1959 gg).Moscow, 1961.
Bibliografiia Irana. Moscow, 1967.
Storey, C. A. Persidskaia literatura: Bio-bibliograficheskii obzor, parts 1–3. Moscow, 1972. (Translated from English.)

The Party of National Renaissance of Iran (Rastakhiz) was founded in 1963. The Tudeh Party (Hezb-e Tudeh-ye Iran) was founded in 1941 as an alliance of representatives of the workers, peasants, and progressive intelligentsia. It was outlawed in 1949.

The Organization of Iranian Workers is an alliance of organized workers and employees at enterprises and state institutions. It has about 1 million members (1974) and is a “collective member” of Rastakhiz under that party’s control. The Iranian Society for Cultural Ties With the USSR was founded in 1943.

General characteristics. Before World War II, Iran was an agrarian country with agriculture on a predominantly feudal or semifeudal basis. Only petroleum extraction was organized on an industrial basis, and it was in the hands of foreign capital. There were no other branches of heavy industry. In light industry, only food and textiles were somewhat developed. The level of production was extremely low, and small manufacturing and handicrafts industries predominated. The state sector played a prominent role in the economy, including industry, transportation, communications, and banking.

After World War II the tendency towards wider capitalist development became pronounced. Since the early 1960’s the transformation of Iran from an agrarian to an agrarian-industrial country has accelerated, although the economy maintains its one-product character. An important factor in the development of the Iranian economy was the government’s implementation of long-term economic plans: the first and second seven-year plans (September 1948 to September 1955 and September 1955 to September 1962) and the third and fourth five-year plans (September 1962 to March 1968 and March 1968 to March 1973).

Until the end of the 1950’s state capital investments were channeled mainly into branches of the infrastructure, the underlying economic sectors of society, such as education, communication, and transport. Other branches were considered primarily spheres of private capital. The government’s policy of encouraging imports caused difficulties in the sale of national industrial products and led to a worsening of the foreign exchange and financial situation.

In the first half of the 1960’s, the government resorted to the promulgation of land reforms and pursued policies to industrialize Iran. Together with private enterprise spurred on by government support, the state sector developed considerably, with the construction of major heavy industrial enterprises (metallurgical, machine-building). From 1963–64 to 1970–71, annual gross investments in fixed capital increased 2.7 times (including industry, which grew 7.1 times), and the proportion of these investments in the gross national product rose from 15.7 percent to 22.3 percent.

Oil continues to play a major role in Iran’s economy, accounting for 26.8 percent (1970—71) of the country’s gross domestic product. Oil production, however, remains an economic sphere controlled by foreign monopoly capital, which extracts immense profits. Investments of foreign monopoly capital in other branches of the economy are insignificant. Foreign capital pumps vast natural wealth out of Iran, totaling in 1969–70 nearly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product.

A high level of investment and a series of socioeconomic reforms facilitating the growth of the internal market led to sharply increased economic growth, which has made Iran one of the leading developing nations. From 1961–62 to 1971–72 the gross domestic product increased in constant prices from 306.4 billion to 793.9 billion rials, an average annual growth rate of 10 percent. The gross national product per capita rose from $192 in 1962 to $429 in 1972.

Economic and technical cooperation with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries has become a significant factor in Iran’s economic growth.

Iran’s industrial growth has led to a decrease in the share of agriculture (in the conventional net production of the branches of material production) from 40.2 percent in 1959–60 to 24.7 percent in 1970–71; the share of industry for the same period grew from 36.9 percent to 59.7 percent (including oil production, which grew from 22.2 percent to 36.6 percent; all other branches of industry grew from 14.4 percent to 23.1 percent). The growth of national industry is leading to fundamental shifts in the geographic distribution of the economy. Old centers such as Tehran, Tabriz, Isfahan, and Abadan have expanded, and new industrial centers such as Arak, Ahvaz, Bandar-e Shahpur, Shiraz, and Kermanshah have acquired considerable importance.

Agriculture. Agriculture is an important branch of Iran’s economy. Toward the beginning of the 1960’s, landowners owned nearly 70 percent (large landowners, 40 percent) of all arable land; peasants owned about 15 percent, and the remaining lands belonged to the state, clergy, and other owners. The metayage system, usually based on a one-year period, predominated, and the tenant was required to turn over to the landowner 60–70 percent, and sometimes more than 80 percent, of his crop.

As a result of agricultural reforms carried out in stages after 1962, large feudal landholdings were practically eliminated. The lands previously rented out to the peasants were purchased and sold to tenants on the installment plan. A landowner may own large amounts of land if he introduces private management (essentially capitalist) with compulsory use of modern technology. As a result of the land reform, approximately 2.5 million peasant families acquired land as property. By early 1972, 7,800 agricultural cooperatives, with about 1.7 million members, had been formed. During the reforms, 27 productive agricultural stock companies using mechanized production were formed. More than 44 percent of sown lands, gardens, and orchards are irrigated. Landowners’ water rights, one of the foundations of the semifeudal exploitation of tenant farmers, fundamentally limited the peasants’ ability to profit from the agricultural reforms. In July 1968 a law was passed nationalizing water resources, but in most cases the wells or other means of access to water remain in the possession of their former owners, with the condition that water shall be sold at a price not exceeding a fixed maximum. For the improvement of water supply, the government has built a series of large dams and other irrigation installations. The agricultural reform stimulated advances in the technological level of agricultural production. At the end of 1970, Iran had 26,800 tractors (compared to 1,200 in 1952) and 1,950 combines. The use of chemical fertilizers in 1970 totaled about 120,000 tons (in 1955, about 200 tons). The main branch of agriculture is farming, accounting for about 60 percent of the value of agricultural production. Of 50 million hectares (ha) of arable land, in 1967–68,19 million ha (16.6 million in 1948–49) were under cultivation; of these only 7.1 million ha (4.6 million in 1948–49) were sown with grain and industrial crops or used for gardens and orchards; 3.2 million ha (1.6 million in 1948–49) were irrigated.

The main crop is wheat, accounting for about 60 percent of field crops. Nearly one-half of the total wheat crop is yielded by the northwest and northeast regions (Eastern Azerbaijan, Western Azerbaijan, and Khorasan), Khuzestan, and Fars. Barley crops (on unirrigated land) in these regions are widespread. More than 80 percent of the rice crop is harvested in the Caspian provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, and more than 50 percent of legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are harvested in the north and in Isfahan. Nearly everywhere, there are orchards (citruses, apricots, peaches, figs, pistachios, persimmons, quince, pomegranates), vine cultivation, and vegetable and melon growing. More than two-thirds of the cotton yield comes from the eastern Caspian provinces and Khorasan. Up to 60 percent of the cotton fiber is exported. Sugar beets are grown in almost all regions of the country; sugarcane is grown in the southwest and in the Caspian provinces. Tea and tobacco are cultivated as well, mainly in Gilan and Mazandaran. See Table 2 for the area and harvest of the main crops.

Table 2. Sown area and harvest of main crops
1 1948-49 to 1952-53
 Area (thousand hectares)Harvest (thousand tons)
Wheat .......2,0004,0005,3272,0003,0004,262
Barley .......700 1,200 1,385 850 740 1,083
Rice (uncleaned) ..220 364 484 480 860 1,350
Cotton (cotton fiber) 1331 405 325 261 115 153
Sugar beets .....22 90 200 189 1,191 3,800

In livestock raising, extensive nomadic herding occupies a prominent place (Khorasan, Kordestan, Lorestan, Khuzestan, and other southern provinces). In 1970–71 (estimate) there were 30 million sheep, 13 million goats, 6 million cattle, 2.1 million asses, 400,000 camels, 600,000 horses and mules, and 50,000 pigs. Silk production is widespread in Gilan and parts of Mazandaran.

The fishing industry is well developed. Beluga, sevruga (stellate sturgeon), Russian sturgeon, Acipenser nudiventris, and pike perch are caught in the Caspian. In 1967–68, 17,200 tons of fish were caught, including 14,000 tons in the Persian Gulf and 3,200 tons in the Caspian Sea. In 1971–72,210 tons of soft and pressed caviar were produced.

Industry. Since 1955, along with the rapid growth of oil extraction, national industry has been intensively developed. In the following ten or 12 years, new branches of industry came into existence, including the metallurgical, petrochemical, machine-building, chemical, and appliance industries (refrigerators, radios, television sets). Traditional branches of industry such as textiles and food have also developed considerably. The average annual growth rate of conventional net production of Iranian industry between 1959–60 and 1970–71 was 13.2 percent.

Despite significant advances in the growth of national industry, small enterprises of the semidomestic type still predominate. In 1970–71 there were 580,000 private and state enterprises (in which 1.5 million people worked); of these, only 4,500 employed ten or more men, and only 20 had more than 1,000 employees’. More than one-third of all state industrial enterprises were concentrated in Central Province (pstari). Industry grew significantly in the ostan of Isfahan. The main oil region of Iran is in the southwest.

EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY. Iran occupies third place (1972) in the capitalist world in oil output (after the USA and Saudi Arabia). The International Oil Consortium, 40 percent of whose shares belong to American capital, 40 percent to British, 14 percent to Anglo-Dutch, and 6 percent to French, plays a leading role in the oil industry, receiving over 90 percent of all Iranian oil. In accordance with an agreement signed in 1971 between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the oil monopolies, the consortium must pay the government of Iran for oil received about 58 percent of income realized. Payments by oil companies to the government rose from $207.8 million in 1957–58 to $1, 143.5 million in 1970–71. The Iranian National Oil Company, formed in 1951, in fact produces only 0.2–0.3 percent of the country’s total oil output. Aside from the consortium, world capital acts through mixed companies, in which the Iranian National Oil Company receives 75 percent or more of the profits. The total oil output of Iran rose from 84.2 million tons in 1964 to 225 million tons in 1971; during the same period its exports increased from 64.6 million tons to 197.5 million tons.

The use of natural gas in Iran is limited. The completion in 1970 (with Soviet technical aid) of the trans-Iranian Gach Saran-Astara gas pipeline opened the way to the export of gas to the USSR. In 1971, 14.4 billion cu m of gas was exploited. Other extractive industries are underdeveloped. In 1969–70, Iran mined 379,900 tons of coal, 118,300 tons of chromites, 199,600 tons of lead and zinc ores, 12,900 tons of copper ore, 15,600 tons of manganese ore, and 7,400 tons of iron ore.

POWER ENGINEERING. Iran has more than 470 electric power plants. The 12 largest belong to the government; most privately owned power plants are small. The combined power of all electric power stations in 1969–70 was 1.5 million kilowatts (kW), with hydroelectric power accounting for 500,000 kW, steam power plants for 400,000 kW, diesel for 500,000 kW, and gas for 100,000 kW. The total length of the main high-voltage electrical transmission lines is 1,600 km.

MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY. Oil refining shares a place of great importance with traditional branches of the manufacturing industry. There are three refineries, in Abadan (controlled by the consortium; production, 24 million tons per year), Tehran, and Kermanshah, as well as three other installations for the distillation of light fractions from oil. In 1969–70 a plant producing lubricating oils went into operation in Tehran. Chemical and petrochemical industries have grown out of the petroleum and natural gas industries. With the participation of American capital, three large petrochemical complexes have been built: one in Abadan (plastics, detergents, and caustic soda), another on the island of Kharg (sulfur, liquefied gas), and the Bandar-e Shahpur complex, one of the largest in the Middle East (sulfur, ammonia, sulfuric and phosphoric acid).

Food production accounts for more than one-third of the total value of industrial production. Sugar production is the most developed (34 enterprises, including 14 state-owned); about one-half of the sugar comes from the ostan of Khorasan. Small enterprises predominate in flour and rice-cleaning industries. In the 1960’s, vegetable oil, sausage, macaroni, meat, fruit and vegetable canning, and other food industries grew rapidly. About 90 percent of Iran’s tea is produced in the ostan of Gilan. Dried fruit is produced throughout the country. Tobacco is processed at three enterprises, two of which are state-owned.

The textile industry, which accounts for about 16 percent of the value of industrial production, is the most highly developed traditional branch of industry. The main centers are Isfahan, Yazd, and Tehran. In interior regions, domestic and semidomes-tic production is important; there are more than 60,000 hand looms in the country. There is widespread hand-weaving of rugs. Building-material production, especially cement, has been emphasized.

Of the new branches of industry, ferrous metallurgy, machine building, metal working, and chemistry and petrochemistry are to be noted; they account for about one-fifth of the value of gross industrial production. The first large metallurgical plant in the country, with a capacity of 500,000 to 600,000 tons of steel a year, is being completed (1972) near Isfahan with Soviet aid; the plant produced its first cast iron in December 1971. With the participation of American and West German capital, two steel-rolling mills and a straight-seam pipe plant with a capacity of 360,000 tons a year have been built in Ahvaz. The country’s first aluminum plant is being completed (1972) in Arak with the participation of Pakistani and American firms.

The most highly developed branch of machine building and metalworking is automobile assembly, with 13 enterprises in and around Tehran (with the participation of American, West German, Italian, British, and Swedish capital). Tractors are also produced: a plant in Tabriz was built with Rumanian assistance. In 1972 the construction of two machine-building plants in Arak was completed with Soviet assistance; there is another in Tabriz, built with Czechoslovak aid. In Tabriz two diesel motor plants have been built, and a third is nearing completion (1972). (See Table 3 for production figures for major industries.)

Table 3. Output of main types of industrial production
11948219623 1971
Oil (million tons)...............25 3163 52225 O3
Electrical energy (billion kilowatt-hours)...............0770
Motor vehicles (thousand)...............3.044.9
Radio and television sets (thousand)...............1002880
Refrigerators (thousand)...............1.0160.0
Cement (million tons)...............
Cotton and synthetic fiber cloth (million m)...............30030404770
Woolen cloth (million m)...............3211 6
Sugar (thousand tons)...............35.0211.0659.0
Vegetable oil (thousand tons)...............65.0145.5

Transportation. Iran has 4,500 km of railroads (1972), the longest being the Trans-Iranian Railroad (1,440 km). About 70 percent of rail freight turnover is carried on its Tehran-Khorramshahr section. Automotive transport accounts for 86 percent of Iran’s domestic freight turnover. Iran has about 40,000 km of roads, with 11,000 km paved. At the beginning of 1972, there were 396,000 motor vehicles, including 322,000 passenger cars, 55,000 trucks, and 18,500 buses.

Seagoing transportation plays the major role in foreign trade. Up to 85 percent of foreign-bound freight passes through the ports of Khorramshahr and Bandar-e Shahpur. The other main ports are Bushehr and Bandar Abbas in the south and Bandar-e Pahlavi and Naushahr in the north. Most foreign-bound freight is carried on foreign ships. The tonnage of the dry-load merchant marine is 150,000; of the tanker fleet, 172,000 gross registered tons. The main oil-exporting ports are Kharg, Bandar-e Mah-shahr, and Abadan.

The state aviation company, Iran Air, handles air transport. There are international airports in Tehran, Abadan, Bandar-e Abbas, and Shiraz.

Foreign trade. The foreign trade turnover (excluding oil and petroleum products) rose from 56.7 billion rials (import, 47.1 billion; export, 9.6 billion) in 1961–62 to 150.9 billion (import, 129.5 billion; export, 21.4 billion) in 1969–70. Growth occurred mainly because of imports. An acute deficit in the foreign-trade balance is compensated for by oil revenues and foreign loans and credits. The distribution of the main imports for 1969–70 (figures for 1961–62 in parentheses) was machines and equipment, 39.6 percent (32.6); metal and metal goods, 21.4 percent (14.6); chemicals and medicines, 10.6 percent (9.7), consumer goods, 12.3 percent (25.8); equipment and appliances for household use, 4.2 percent (4.8); and rubber and rubber products, 2.4 percent (3.7). In exports (excluding oil), finished and semifinished industrial products began to play an important role after the mid-1960’s (in 1969–70, about 13 percent; in 1961–62, about 6 percent). The distribution of the main exports (excluding oil) in 1969–70 (1961–62 figures in parentheses) was rugs, 24.2 percent (22.8); cotton, 20.2 percent (25.3); dried fruits and nuts, 15 percent (17.4); raw leather, 6.9 percent (4.5); metal ores, 4.8 percent (3.1); knitted wear, 2.5 percent (0); caviar, 2.4 percent (1.9); soap and detergents, 2.1 percent (0); and vegetable oils, 1.7 percent (0). About 85 percent of the country’s total export consists of petroleum (1970–71). In Iran’s imports, the developed capitalist countries account for 80–86 percent; in 1969–70, they supplied up to 90 percent of all imported machinery and equipment, 85 percent of ferrous metals and products, and up to 90 percent of chemicals and medicines. In Iran’s national exports, the socialist countries play the leading role, buying 90 percent of Iran’s exported cotton, 75 percent of its dried apricots, 65 percent of its almonds, 60 percent of its raisins, 60 percent of its metallic ores, 98 percent of its knitted wear, 91 percent of its soap powder, and 87 percent of its footwear. Iran’s main trade partners in 1969–70 (1961–62 figures in parentheses) were, in imports, West Germany, 20 percent (20); the USA, 14 percent (18); Great Britain, 12 percent (16); Japan, 11 percent (9); the USSR, 8 percent (3); France, 6 percent (5); and Italy, 4 percent (4). In exports, the USSR accounted for 24 percent (14); West Germany, 15 percent (15); the USA, 10 percent (9); Great Britain, 4 percent (12); and Japan, 4 percent (1).

Oil and petroleum products exports in 1971–72 totaled 199 million tons, including 183 million tons of crude. In 1971, Western European countries imported 27 percent of Iran’s oil, Japan 47 percent, and other countries 26 percent.

To implement economic development programs Iran makes wide use of credits, loans, technical assistance, and other aid from the socialist countries. The economic assistance of the USSR is oriented toward the creation of modern industrial enterprises: a metallurgical plant was constructed near Isfahan, and iron-ore deposits near Bafg and coal near Kerman were discovered and exploited to supply the metallurgical plant with raw material; machine building has been developed, with production of agricultural machinery, mineshaft equipment, and equipment for cement and sugar plants in Arak; and the exploitation of natural gas has been facilitated by the construction of the northern part of the trans-Iranian pipeline, with branches to Tehran. Soviet aid has also played an important role in the development of the food and fishing industries and in the construction of electrical power plants, such as the steam power plant in Tabriz (completed in 1970), the Araks River hydroelectric power plant, and the construction of the Araks hydrotechnical complex (completed in 1971).

The developed capitalist countries, with the goal of strengthening their influence and buttressing their position in Iran’s economy, granted Iran about $2 billion in loans and other types of aid between 1950 and 1969. The monetary unit of Iran is the rial. One US dollar is equivalent to 75.75 rials; by the USSR State Bank rate on Nov. 1, 1972,100 rials = 1.10 rubles.


Economic regions. The central, or central Tehran, region (the Central and Isfahan ostans and the chief governorate of Semnan) accounts for about one-fourth of Iran’s area and more than one-fourth of its population. The economic base is irrigationoasis farming: cash crops and vine cultivation. The region contains more than two-thirds of the industrial enterprises (metallurgical, machine-building) and much of the domestic handicrafts industries. Its economic centers are Tehran, Isfahan, and Kazvin.

The northwestern region, sometimes called the western region, including Eastern and Western Azerbaijan ostans, accounts for one-tenth of the area and about one-sixth of the population. The economic base is unirrigated farming, primarily wheat; the region supplies about a quarter of the country’s total wheat crop. There is livestock raising (with two-fifths of the country’s livestock). The main economic center is Tabriz.

The northern region (the Gilan and Mazandaran ostans) accounts for one-twentieth of the area and about one-seventh of the population. It is the main rice-growing region and is the only area where tea is cultivated. There is fishing, cotton-growing, farming, and the processing of agricultural products along the coast. The main economic centers are Pahlavi and Rasht.

The northeastern region, sometimes called the eastern region (the ostan of Khorasan), accounts for about one-fifth of the area and one-tenth of the population. It is the country’s granary, growing mostly wheat and barley, with much livestock raising as well. There is little industry. The main economic center is Meshed.

The eastern, or Khorasan-Sistan region (mainly Baluchestan and Sistan), accounts for over one-tenth of the country’s area and about one-fiftieth of its population. It is one of the most backward regions economically; mountain pasturing of livestock is important, and there is some cultivation of grain for local consumption. Its economic center is Zahedan.

The southern region (mainly Kerman and Fars and the region along the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and the Makran and Zagros mountains) accounts for about one-tenth of the country’s area and one-sixteenth of its population. The economic base is nomadic shepherding and oasis agriculture (cotton, castor-oil plants, and sesame). Roses are cultivated in the Shiraz area. The region is important for its date palms; it is a major supplier of henna and basma (a brown hair dye). There is cotton cleaning, textile factories, and a domestic handicrafts industry. On the coast, there is fishing, as well as various maritime trades. The main economic center is Shiraz.

The southwestern region, comprising the Khuzestan plain and the foothills of the Zagros, is the major oil extraction and refining center. (It is sometimes included in the southern region.) The economic base is mountain pasturing of livestock and date raising. The main economic centers are Abadan, Ahvaz and Bandar-e Shahpur. The ports are Bandar-e Shahpur, Bandar-e Mahshahr, Bandar Abbas, Bushehr, and Kharg.

The economic base of the western region (mainly the ostan of Kordestan and the chief governorate of Lorestan) is nomadic and seminomadic shepherding. Vestiges of the communal clanoriented and feudal periods may be observed. Hunting and forestry (the gathering of oak gall and gum tragacanth) are practiced. Oil is extracted and refined in the ostan of Kermanshahan. The main economic center is Kermanshah, the center of the national oil industry.



Gorelikov, S. G. Iran. Moscow, 1961.
Demin, A. I. Sel’skoe khoziaistvo sowemennogo Irana. Moscow, 1967.
Paliukaitis, I. I. Ekonomicheskoe razvitie Irana. Moscow, 1965.
Pobedina, M. P., V. P. Smirnov, and V. V. Tsybul’skii. Ekonomicheskaia geografiia stran Blizhnego i Srednego Vostoka. Moscow, 1969.
Dement’ev, I. A. Ekonomicheskaia i politicheskaia geografiia Zapadnoi Azii. Moscow, 1968.
Iran Almanac and Book of Facts, 1972, 11th ed. Tehran, 1972.

Iran’s armed forces consist of ground forces, an air force, and a navy, with about 181,000 men in service at the beginning of 1972. There are also gendarme and police forces totaling about 40,000. The commander in chief is the shah. The minister of war and the staff of the commander in chief command the army, air force, and navy. The supply of personnel to the armed forces is based on a law imposing a universal military obligation: the period of active duty is two years. Ground forces (about 150,000 men) are commanded in corps. There are six divisions (three infantry and three armored), plus five detached brigades and more than 15 detached battalions and artillery battalions. Most arms are American-produced, although Iran produces its own firearms and light artillery. The air force has about 22,000 men and 211 warplanes and helicopters organized into aviation bases (brigades), with American F-4 Phantom and F-5 warplanes. The navy (more than 9,000 men) has one destroyer, five frigates, and antisubmarine and other auxiliary craft.

Medicine and public health. In 1968, the birthrate was 38.9 per 1,000; the mortality rate was 6.1 per 1,000 (1969); the infant mortality rate was 55.4 per 1,000 live births. The average life expectancy was 40 years.

The most serious problem in Iranian public health is the struggle against infectious diseases (particularly malaria), which determine the main pathology of the population. There are no official statistics on causes of death, but it is known that the mortality rate from gastrointestinal infections and tuberculosis is high. Trachoma, typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, dysentery, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, tick spirochetosis, and phlebotomus fever, as well as such childhood infections as measles, scarlet fever, and diphtheria, are quite widespread. Of the parasitic diseases, malaria (in an area inhabited by about 83 percent of the population), dermal and visceral leishmaniases, ancylostomiases, ascariasis, and trichocephaliasis are endemic. Of particularly dangerous infections, anthrax is to be noted, and there are natural nidi of plague in Kordestan. In the Caspian coastal region, the northwestern mountains, and the northern slopes of the Elburz Mountains (a humid subtropical zone), ancylostomiases, external mycoses, and gastrointestinal infections, including typhoid fever and dysentery, are particularly widespread. Malaria and taeniarhynchosis are also found here, and mainly in the northwest there is visceral leishmaniasis and brucellosis.

On the wide interior plateaus, with their hot, dry climate, there is dysentery, dermal leishmaniasis, tick spirochetosis, and amebiasis. On the western slopes of the Zagros Mountains and in the Khuzestan Mountains there are, in addition to malaria and gastrointestinal diseases, dracunculosis and bejel; near the lower reaches of the Karun River are nidi of genitourinary shis-tosomiasis. In the garmsir (the southern coastal lowlands), with its particularly hot climate and meager water resources, trachoma is widespread.

In 1968, Iran had 433 hospitals with 31,000 beds (1.1 beds per 1,000 inhabitants), with outpatient help provided (1965) by 300 polyclinical hospital branches and 700 dispensaries. In 1969 there were 9,900 doctors (one doctor per 3,500 inhabitants), 190 doctor’s aides, 1,500 dentists, 2,700 pharmacists, 1,000 mid-wives, and 2,200 nurses. Doctors in private practice play an important part in health care. Universities train medical personnel, as do specialized secondary medical schools.

A public health corps was created in 1963 to deal with village medical care; more than 2,000 doctors and about 4,500 medical aides were working in January 1970 in the corps in villages. Opium smoking was banned in Iran in 1963. In 1965–66 public health expenditures made up 9.5 percent of the state budget.


Veterinary services. Most diseases of agricultural animals are found in Iran. Infectious diseases predominate, many of which are stipulated in veterinary conventions. In 1970,281 new nidi of foot-and-mouth disease were registered, as well as 261 of anthrax, 730 of sheep smallpox, 386 of sheep and goat agalactia, 541 of Newcastle disease, 1,354 of piroplasmosis, 599 of sheep and goat mange, and two of rabies. Much of the livestock is infected with brucellosis, tuberculosis, and leptospirosis. Cattle helminthiasis is common, especially echinococcosis and cysticer-cosis. (In some regions of Iran, up to 40 percent of the livestock is diseased.) There are regions in Iran that are enzootic for rabies, leptospirosis, and piroplasmoses of animals (the ostans of Mazandaran, Gilan, and Eastern and Western Azerbaijan).

The veterinary network is underdeveloped; the country has only 166 veterinarians (1970). According to a public health and veterinary convention signed between the USSR and Iran in 1935, mutual consultations are conducted, joint research on the infectious pathology of animals is performed, and vaccines and other medicinal and diagnostic preparations are exchanged.


Until the early 20th century Iran had a medieval, religious educational system. During the Revolution of 1905–11 laws on the creation of a secular system of education and compulsory elementary education were passed. They were not realized, however, and education in Iran to a considerable extent remained in the hands of the clergy. In 1927 a law was passed on universal free elementary education, and an educational reform was undertaken envisaging the creation of a unified state system of general educational schools. At all levels of study, religion is a compulsory subject. In 1943 a new law was promulgated with the goal of assuring universal elementary education within ten years, but in 1966,67 percent of the men and 88 percent of the women were illiterate. The government decided to develop education and eliminate illiteracy, to strengthen primary education, and to develop professional, technical, and higher education. An “education corps” of youths with a secondary education who had been mobilized into the army was formed in 1963 to teach the population in villages where there were no schools. In 1968–70, they taught about 1.6 million people. In the 1968–69 to 1972–73 five-year plan, 35 billion rials were assigned to education.

As a result of an educational reform of 1968 the following system of education was created: five-year compulsory primary school and secondary school (optional, with tuition fees) in two three-year levels, the second covering natural science, mathematics, and the humanities. The 11th year of secondary school is preparatory to higher education. In the 1969–70 school year there were more than 2.9 million students at 23,900 elementary schools and 897,000 students at 2,298 secondary schools.

The problem of training professional and technical personnel is a crucial one for Iran. Vocational schools require completion of the first secondary level. The period of study is two to three years. In 1969–70 there were 23,300 students at 185 vocational schools; this number still does not satisfy the country’s economic needs.

The USSR supplies Iran with aid for the construction of centers for the training of technical personnel and qualified workers. The first such center was created at Isfahan in 1968. In 1971 work was completed on two more centers in Tabriz and Arak. There is a severe shortage of teachers; elementary-level teachers are trained at two-year teachers’ colleges, which require completion of the first level of secondary school; secondary school teachers study at the pedagogical institute of the University of Tehran. In 1969–70, there were 9,000 students at 134 teachers colleges and the pedagogical institute. The educational reform of 1968 envisages a considerable increase in the number of students at the engineering, physics and technology, medical, agricultural, and economics departments and pedagogical departments and institutes.

Higher education is provided at the University of Tehran (State University; founded in 1934), the National University of Iran (founded 1960), Arya Mehr University of Technology (founded 1966) at Tehran, Pahlavi University in Shiraz (founded 1945), and the universities of Meshed (1955), Isfahan (four colleges; founded in the 1960’s), Tabriz (1946), and Ahvaz (1955). Engineers are trained at the Tehran Polytechnic Institute and the Abadan Institute of Oil Technology. There is the Higher School of Forestry and Range in Gorgan, an agricultural institute in Karaj, and the Trade School in Shiraz. Tuition is charged at the universities and other institutions of higher education. In 1969–70, about 76,000 students were enrolled at 75 institutions of higher education; about 30,000 Iranians studied at foreign universities.

The largest libraries are the National Library (founded 1935; 80,000 volumes) and the Pahlavi Library (founded 1965; 450,000 manuscripts in original or photocopy) in Tehran, the university libraries, and a valuable collection of books and manuscripts at the library of the Imam Reza Mosque in Meshed. The most important museums are the Archaeological Museum (founded 1936), the Ethnographical Museum (founded 1938), the Golestan Palace Museum in Tehran (founded 1894), and the Pars Museum in Shiraz (founded 1938).


Natural sciences and technology. The natural sciences blossomed in Iran in the pre-Islamic Sassanid period (third-seventh centuries A.D.). Books have been preserved on mathematics, astronomy, medicine, veterinary science, and agriculture in the Syriac and Pahlavi languages. In the Islamic period there was a flowering of the sciences (particularly geography) in the eighth to 11th centuries, when Iran was a part of the Abbasid Caliphate. Al-Balkhi’s and al-Istakhri’s works on geography became particularly famous. At this time there were also advances in medicine (al-Razi and Avicenna) and mathematics (Omar Khayyam). Nasir-al-Din al-Tusi’s works on mathematics, astronomy, and metrology (13th century) are of particular interest. An astronomical observatory was built at Maraghah between 1260 and 1272. In the 19th century the reforms of Emir Nezam in 1849–51, the opening of the polytechnic school known as the Dar al-Fonun (House of Knowledge), the invitation to Iran of foreign scholars, and the dispatch of young Iranians to study abroad aided the growth of scientific thought. The beginning of book printing in Iran dates to about this time.

A considerable advance in the development of science can be traced to the first third of the 20th century. The Institut Pasteur was organized in 1920. Since the 1940’s scientific activity at the University of Tehran has increased. In the following years scientific research, mainly in medicine, was begun at the Universities of Tabriz, Meshed, Shiraz, Isfahan, and Ahvaz. The development of the physical, mathematical, and technological sciences began in the late 1960’s.

Among scientific institutions of modern Iran, the leading place belongs to the University of Tehran, which has scientific centers devoted to the study of medicine, atomic energy, and other fields. The Nuclear Center put a research nuclear reactor in operation in 1967. The university has institutes of geography, geophysics, and economic research. With the participation of scholars from the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, and Japan, the university is conducting research in marine desalinization and the creation of plasma motors. The Tehran Medical Center has concentrated its research on tropical medicine, helminthology, epidemiology, and the study of malaria and trachoma and other infectious eye diseases. Medical research is also conducted at the Institut Pasteur, at institutes of medical parasitology and tropical hygiene, cancerous diseases, and dietetics, and at the State Pharmaceutical Institute. Research is coordinated by the Council on Scientific Research in Medicine and Public Health. There is an institute of medical research at the University of Tabriz that maintains contacts with French scientific establishments. The State Razi Institute conducts veterinary research. The Arya Mehr University of Technology in Tehran conducts research, in cooperation with British scientists, on industrial technology, mainly steel production. Pahlavi University in Shiraz is conducting research in the physical and mathematical sciences with the cooperation of scientists from the USA and West Germany. Scientific research in agriculture is concentrated at special centers in Karaj, Varamin, Gorgan, Isfahan, Meshed, and other cities; attention is focused on the selection and the increase in yield of wheat, barley, rice, cotton, sunflowers, soybeans, and other crops. There are also scientific centers at the Ministry of Water and Power and the Ministry of Roads and Communications, the Iranian National Oil Company, and the Iranian Plan Organization. There are more than 100 scientific research institutions in Iran.

The Scientific Research Committee, created in 1967 as a part of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Higher Education, is in charge of scientific research in Iran.

The advance of science in Iran is slowed by a shortage of scientists; in some fields there are none at all.

Since the 1930’s, Iranian and Soviet scientists have collaborated on problems of the control of agricultural pests and on questions of epidemiology and other branches of medicine. In 1971 the Soviet Union and Iran signed an agreement on scientific and technical cooperation.


Social sciences.PHILOSOPHY. The most ancient masterpiece of Iranian philosophical thought is the group of texts reflecting the cosmological views of the Indo-Iranian tribes that together constitute the Avesta, the holy books of Zoroastrianism. Existence is perceived in these texts as a struggle between the two principles of light and darkness, Ormazd (Ahura-Mazda) and Ahri-man (Angra-Mainyu). This struggle has a cyclical character: the world and the first man, created by Ormazd, fall under the power of Ahriman, but at the end of the cycle of time, light, representing the powers of Ormazd, is liberated from its imprisonment in darkness, and the universe returns to its original state. Creation is conceived hierarchically, with several intermediary, idealized links, the “angelic” worlds. These representations are in keeping with the astral and other myths and cults of the ancient East; they were also the basis of medieval philosophical thought.

During Sassanid rule (third to seventh century A.D.), ancient Greek thought was widespread in Iran, especially the philosophy of Neoplatonism developed by pagan scholars banished from Christian Byzantium. Manichaeanism and Mazdakism grew important. After Iran’s inclusion in the Arab Caliphate, Iranian philosophy developed along lines common to all Muslim peoples of the East, though it preserved the tradition of pre-Islamic views, which served as the source of various heresies and unorthodox schools of theology (Shiism, particularly in its extreme forms, especially Ismailism, was receptive to this tendency). The ultimate development of ancient Iranian conceptions was the doctrine of infinite time (Zurvan, Dahr) as the first cause of all cyclical changes in existence. In the early Middle Ages followers of this philosophical, cosmological teaching often entered into polemics with the dogmatic theology of Islam. Free-thinking tendencies characterized the views of al-Razi (late ninth to early tenth century). The ideas of Ismailism were reflected in the works of Naser Khosrow (11th century). Eastern Aristoteli-anism, which had adopted numerous elements of Neoplatonism, was widespread; its most powerful proponent was Avicenna, whose rich and varied contributions nurtured many later generations of Iranian scholars. An important attainment of Iranian philosophical thought is the hekmat-e ishraqi (philosophy of illumination) of Suhravardi (late 12th century), who paved the way for the unification of Aristotelianism with Sufism and ancient Iranian esoteric teachings. Nasir-al-Din Tusi, in assimilating the inheritance of Avicenna, relied to a great extent on Aristotelianism, although he was a forceful theoretician of Ismailism as well.

There was a rejuvenation of Iranian philosophical thought in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Isfahan renaissance introduced many major thinkers (Bah al-Din Amili, Mir Damad, Molla Sadr Shirazi, A. Lahiji, Muhsin Feyz-e Kashi, Mohammad Ho-seyn Khan), who developed the tradition of hekmat-e ishraqi as well as that of Aristotelianism. A distinguishing characteristic of the development of thought in the 18th and 19th centuries was the struggle between the religiophilosophical schools of the osuli and akhbari, in the process of which the sheykhi school arose (A. Ahsai, early 19th century), which exists in contemporary Iran, as well. In the 19th century other currents developed, such as Babism and Bahaism. Hadi Sabzevari, Kashfi Borujerdi, and Abdul Hasan Isfahani were among the well-known thinkers. Under Western influence and with the development of capitalism there appeared various strains of liberal-bourgeois enlightenment thought (Malkom Khan, Talibuf, Zeyn al-Abedin Ma-raghei, Mirza Taqi Khan, Emir Nezam, M. Hasan Khan), which opposed the traditional schools of idealist metaphysics. In 20th-century Iran, Marxist ideas spread, propagandized by one of the leaders of the Iranian Communist Party, Taqi Erani.

Characteristic of the present state of philosophy in Iran are attempts to link various streams of Western European thought with the religious attitudes of Islam, for example, existentialism with Sufism (A. Hekmat, H. Nasr, who criticized Eurocen-trism). The followers of various traditional schools of Islamic scholastics (M. Kh. Kamarei, M. H. Tabatabai, M. M. Chahar-dehi, R. Z. Kermani) remain faithful to their positions. Western European schools and teachings are also widespread (B. Pasar-gad, M. Sanai, H. Hamid). After World War II, sociology developed (M. Madhavi, A. Turabi), particularly empirical research (J. Behnam, S. Rasekh, H. Naragi).

The main center of philosophical scholarship is the University of Tehran, where the Philosophy and Humanities Society of Iran, which carries on major work in the study and publication of philosophical masterpieces, is situated as a part of the philology department.


HISTORICAL SCHOLARSHIP Iranian historiography developed in the tenth and 11th centuries under the influence of Arabic-language historical literature and of historical legends of the Iranian peoples of ancient times and the early Middle Ages. The major representatives of Iranian feudal historiography were Ata Malek-e Joveyni, Fazl Allah Rashid al-Din, Hamd Allah Qaz-vini, Mirkhvand, and Iskandar Beg Munshi Torkaman. The traditions of feudal historiography were preserved in Iran through the 19th century (Reza Qoli Khan Hedayat, Mirza Mohammad Taq Sepehr). Bourgeois historiography developed in Iran in the 19th century. Agha Khan Kermani (1853–96), opposing the primitive descriptiveness of medieval chronicles, tried to discover the laws of social development, using the history of Iran as an example. The Iranian Revolution of 1905–11 exerted a significant influence on the development of Iranian historical scholarship; in this period for the first time historical works appeared revealing the hard lot of the popular masses (Nazem al-Eslam Kermani). From the 1920’s through the 1940’s a historical-philological school developed whose founders (Mohammad Qazvini, Said Nafisi, Abbas Eqbal) set as their main goal the publication of ancient historical monuments. At the same time historical monographs were written on the ancient and medieval history of Iran and on Iran’s material culture (H. Pirniya, S. Nafisi, A. Eqbal). Works on the history of the Iranian Revolution of 1905–11 (the most significant by A. Kasravi), the history of the national liberation and democratic movements of the early 1920’s (for example, Ali Azeri), and the history of Iran in the 1920’s and 1930’s (H. Makki, Mohammad Taqi Bahar) were published. In the 1940’s, A. Eqbal edited Iran’s first historical journal, Yadgar (Monument). During the rise of the national-liberation and democratic movement of 1949–53, collections of documents were published, as well as a monograph series unmasking the nature of British policies in Iran (H. Makki, Key Ostovan, M. Fateh).

In the historiography of the 1950’s and 1960’s, publication of sources continues to occupy a prominent place. In addition to sources on medieval history, documents on modern and contemporary history have been published, as well as material on specific topics in Iranian history, such as the Iranian Revolution of 1905–11 and Iran’s 19th-century foreign policies (A. Navoi, M. Nakhjevani, Z. Sabetian, I. Afshar, M. Danesh-pozhuh, I. Safai, H. Moaser, M. Rezavi, M. Minovi, I. Bastani Parizi, Taqi Binesh). Translations of sources on Iranian history from Arabic, Old French, and other languages have also appeared. These publications are accompanied by detailed commentaries. Memoirs of statesmen have been published. Monographs on Iranian medieval history have been written by N. Falsafi, I. Bas-tani-Parizi, G. Yusefi, and S. Bayani; works on modern Iranian history have been composed by A. Eqbal, H. Makki, Hadi Hedayat, Faridun Adamiyat, Mahmud Mahmud, Ali Akbar Bina, and Hafez Farman-Farmayan; new works on the Iranian Revolution of 1905–11 have been published by H. Taqi-zadeh, I. Amirkhizi, M. Malekzadeh, M. I. Rezvani, and J. Sheykh al-Eslami. L. Honarfar’s book on the architectural masterpieces of Isfahan contains a wealth of historical material. Important contributions to the study of Iranian social thought have been made by the Iranian historians F. Adamiyat, Modarresi-Chahardehi, and I. Afshar. Many Iranian bourgeois historians interpret the history of Iran from the viewpoint of Pan-Iranism and Persian nationalism.

While most historical works of the 1920’s through 1940’s were distinguished by their concentration on facts, the works of Iranian historians of the 1950’s and 1960’s have a more investigative character and contain elements of critical analysis.

The works of the Iranian Marxists I. Eskandari, A. Kam-bakhsh, A. Agaki, T. Shahin, E. Tabari, S. Badi, and R. Nam-var are devoted to chronicling the spread of Marxist-Leninist ideology in Iran, the communist and workers’ movement, and the agrarian question.

The sharpening of social contradictions after World War II and the economic transformations of the 1960’s intensified the interest in social and historicoeconomic problems. The first work on economics was published during World War I (M. Jamal-zadeh’s study of Iran’s economy); in the 1950’s, Taqi Bahrami’s History of Iranian Farming appeared. In the 1960’s, Shapur Rasekh, Hasan Naragi, Alabadi, and K. Zarnegar wrote studies on socioeconomic problems. The official appraisal of reforms in Iran found expression in Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s The White Revolution (1966–67) and in the works of Ashraf Ahmedi, Tabatabai, and M. Shamlu.

Archaeology (E. Negahban, A. Hakemi, S. M. Mostowfi, P. Varjavand) and ethnography (Jalal al-Ahmad, Yahya Zoka, M. Bahmanbegi, H. Pur-Karim, A. Saki, Jalil Ziyapur) have developed since the end of the 1950’s. The first works on numismatics were published in the 1920’s by A. Kasravi; Shirin Bayani and A. Qahramani have also written on this topic.

Historical research is conducted at the universities of Tehran and Shiraz, among others, as well as in various museums. The Asian Institute has been opened at the University of Shiraz and studies Middle Eastern economics and politics; it also conducts archaeological expeditions in southern Iran. Historians are trained at Iranian universities and at foreign academic and scientific institutions.

Historical materials are published in the journals Barrasiha-ye tarikhi (Historical Research; since 1966) and Bastanshenasi va honar-e Iran (Archaeology and Art of Iran; since 1969).


LINGUISTICS. Linguistics in Iran has a rich lexicographical tradition. Persian manuscript dictionaries have been known since the 11th century. The Russian academician K. G. Zaleman in one of his works (1888) provided an annotated chronological index of Persian dictionaries that included 161 titles. The Iranian scholar S. Nafisi in the preface to the dictionary Farhangnamehye farsi (Persian Encyclopedia, 1940) mentioned 202 dictionaries, many of which were inaccessible to him. The first dictionary of Farsi-Dari (the general literary language of the Persians, Tajiks, and several other Iranian peoples between the ninth and 15th centuries) should apparently be considered the now lost dictionary of Abu-Hafs Soghdi, who lived during the late ninth and early 10th centuries. The oldest extant dictionary is the Lu-ghat-e fars of Asadi Tusi (11th century), all manuscripts and editions of which, apparently, are not entirely identical to the original. The major dictionaries of succeeding centuries are Toh-fat al-saadat (Mahmud ibn Sheykh Ziya-al-Din Mohammad, 16th century), Majma al-fors (Mohammad Qasim Soruri Ka-shani, 17th century), Farhang-e Jahangiri (Hoseyn Inju, 17th century), Borhan-e qati (Mohammad Hoseyn ibn Khalaf Ta-brizi, 17th century), Ghiyas al-loghat (compiled in India, 1827), and Farhang-e Anand Raj (Mohammad Padshah, 19th century). Of the bilingual dictionaries, Arabic-Persian editions are known from the 11th century; Persian-Turkish dictionaries first appeared in the 15th century, and French-Persian dictionaries in the 19th century. One of the oldest Arabic-Persian dictionaries, Muqaddimat al-adab, was compiled in the 12th century by Abul-Qasim Mohammad al-Zamakhshari, an émigré from Khwarezm. In modern Iran there have been published or are in the process of publication the explanatory and encyclopedic dictionaries of A. Dehkhoda and M. Moin, the dictionaries of A. Nafisi and H. Amid, and various bilingual and specialized dictionaries. Among the famous 15th-century lexical and grammatical introductions to dictionaries, which represent attempts at a normative grammar of Persian, the Farhang-e Jahangiri of Hoseyn Inju is worthy of attention: he should be considered one of the founders of Persian normative grammar.

In the mid-20th century there began a systematic study of the problems of the origin of the Persian language, the relationship of the literary language to dialects, foreign influences and the preservation of the “purity” of the native language, etymology, specialized terminology, and questions of orthography and standard pronunciation. Problems connected with the ancient Iranian language and the history and dialectology of the Persian language have been studied as well by I. Pur-e Davud, Mohammad Taqi Bahar, Zabihollah Safa, M. Moin, Parviz Natel Khan-lari, and Ehsan Yar-Shater. Studies in lexicology and grammar have been expanded in the works of M. Moin, A. Homayun-Farrokh, A. Qarib, Parviz Natel Khanlari, M. Minovi, and M. Ekhtiyar. Considerable work is being done in the publication and linguistic analysis of historical and literary texts; the language and style of the Iranian classics have been analyzed by M. Shafii, M. Bahar, M. Moin, S. Nafisi, and M. Minovi. The teaching of Persian in foreign countries has also been studied.

Linguists are trained at the departments of literature at the universities of Tehran, Tabriz, and Meshed, among others. There is no periodical specializing in linguistics. Scholarly journals of the departments of literature publish articles on linguistics. Linguistic theory is also treated in the public-affairs and political journal Sokhan (since 1943) and in several other periodicals. L. S. Peisikov


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Agahi, A. M. Iz istorii obshchestvennoi ifilosofskoi mysli v Irane. Baku, 1971.
Molé, M. Le Problème zoroastrien et la tradition mazdéenne. Paris, 1963.
Corbin, H. Terre céleste et corps de résurrection: De /’Iran mazdéen à I’Iran shiite. Paris, 1960.
Corbin, H. Histoire de la philosophic islamique, vol. 1. Paris, 1964.
Nasr, S. H. Three Muslim Sages. Cambridge, Mass., 1964.
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Shafa, S. Jahan-e Iranshenasi(The World of Iranian Studies), 2nd ed. Tehran [1970].
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Khanlari, Parviz Natel. Zabanshenasi va zaban-e farsi(Linguistics and the Persian Language), 3rd ed. Tehran, 1347 A.H. (A.D. 1968).
Khanlari, Parviz Natel. Tarikh-e zaban-e farsi(History of the Persian Language). 1349 A.H. (A.D. 1970).

In 1974, Iran had about 6 newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. The most important Persian and foreign-language newspapers (with circulation figures for 1974) are Ettelaat (since 1925, semiofficial; 150,000–200,000); Keyhan (since 1942; 150,000–200,000); Keyhan International ’(an English-language morning edition of Keyhan; 1,000); Ayandegan (since 1967; 20,000–25,000); Peygham-e emruz (since 1960; 23,000); Rasta-khiz (since 1975; organ of the Rastakhiz Party; about 150,000); Burs (since 1961, a financial newspaper; 7,000); Journal de Tehran (since 1935, a French-language edition of Ettelaat; 6,500); Tehran Journal (in English; 5,000); and Rastakhiz-e Javanan (organ of the Rastakhiz Party for youth; 10,000). The largest Persian magazines (with 1974 circulation figures) are Khan-daniha (since 1939, a literary and political magazine with selected materials from the Iranian and foreign press; about 30,000); Ettelaat-e Banuvan (a public-affairs and political magazine for women; 100,000); and Daneshmand (a popular-science magazine; about 10,000).

The Iranian news agency, Pars, was created in 1936. The first radio broadcasts in Iran began in 1940; there are radio stations in Tehran, Tabriz, Meshed, Isfahan, Shiraz, and several other cities. The largest are Radio Iran (in Persian) and the US Armed Forces Radio and Television Center (in English). There are broadcasts to foreign countries in Russian, English, French, Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, and Urdu.

Television broadcasting began in Iran in the late 1950’s. There are television stations in Tehran, Rasht, Meshed, Tabriz, Abadan, Bandar Abbas, and Shiraz (transmission in Persian) and the US Armed Forces television station in Tehran (in English).

The ancient literature and particularly the medieval literature of Iran is the common achievement of peoples speaking Iranian languages (Persians, Tajiks, Afghans, Kurds), many Turkic peoples (Uzbeks, Turkmens, Azerbaijani, and Turks), and several Hindustani peoples. At various times they were part of a single state, and Persian (Farsi-Dari) was their primary literary language during many periods. For this reason, the contributions to the development of ancient and medieval Iranian literature made by Tajiks, Azerbaijani, Indians, Turks, and other peoples are just as important as those of the Persians, who form the nucleus of the population of present-day Iran. Iranian literature of the classical period (ninth to 15th century) is often referred to as Perso-Tajik literature.

Elements of metrical poetic speech and sources of the later heroic epics and royal chronicles have come down to us in the ancient Persian texts of the Avesta and in the cuneiform inscriptions of the Achaemenids. During Sassanid rule the lost dynastic chronicle Khvatay-Namak, the epic tales of the Assyrian Tree, The Book of the Heroic Deeds of the Son of Zarer, The Book of the Deeds of Ardashir Papakan, and the didactic collection Kalila va Dimna (a variant of the Indian Panchatantra) were composed in the Middle Iranian languages, constituting the Pahlavi literature; there were also Manichaean religious and didactic compositions.

After the Arab conquest of Iran and its inclusion in the Caliphate (seventh century), Arabic became the main literary language, into which several Pahlavi literary works were translated, including Kalila va Dimna. Al-Khuraymi (eighth century) and al-Bashshar ibn Burd (died 783) composed lyric, panegyric, and satirical poetry in Arabic, as did Abu Nuvas (born 747–762; died 813–815) and many other Iranian poets.

As early as the ninth century, literature in Persian was developing alongside works in Arabic. This process began in the east (in Central Asia and Khorasan under the Samanid state) and in territories that had begun before the rest to be ruled by local dynasties (the poets Hanzaleh Badghisi, Firuz al-Mashriqi, and Abu-Salek Gorgani). The Persian literary language and the main genres of classical Iranian poetry (the rubai, ghazal, qasida, mas-navi, and qita) received their polished form in the works of Rudaki (died 941) and the poets grouped around him in the early tenth century. The numerous attempts in the late tenth century to create a poetic epic cycle (Daqiqi) were crowned with success in the Shah-nameh of Ferdowsi (c. 940–1020). After the late tenth century, Persian became the literary language of western Iran as well, in the Buyid lands, where the poets Manteqi Razi (died between 980 and 990), Kamal-al-Din Bondar (died 1010), and Ghazaeri (died c. 1040) composed their panegyrics.

After the collapse of the Samanid state and the inclusion of eastern Iran and part of Central Asia in the Ghaznavid state (with its center at Ghazni, in what is now Afghanistan), panegyric poetry with lyric and didactic elements was introduced by Farrokhi (died 1038), the “king of poets” Onsori (died 1039), and Manuchehri (died 1041). The continuing epic tradition was reflected mainly in the new poetic “epilogues” to the Shah-nameh: the Garshasp-nameh (1062–64) of Asadi Tusi and the Barzu-nameh of Atai (died 1078). Prose works were also written, for example, the Sendbad-nameh (1050) of Abu al-Favaris Qanarezi. There are artistic elements in the historical compositions of Gardizi (11th century) and Beyhaqi (c. 995–1077).

Attention to human individuality and the call to spiritual perfection glimmer through the mystical forms of Sufi literature (the poetry of Abdullah Ansari, 1006–88; the long poems The Garden of Truth of Sanai, died 1141; and the Conversation of the Birds of Attar, born circa 1119) and the Ismailite doctrines (the philosophical poet Naser Khosrow; born 1004, died between 1072 and 1088). An immediate expression of humanistic ideas can be found in the rubaiyat and ghazals of Qatran Tabrizi (1010–80), in the work of the founder of the genre of the “prison elegy,” Masud-e Sad-e Salman (1046 to c. 1121), and in the writings of the satirist Suzani of Samarkand (died 1173). The development of humanistic literature in Persian reached its zenith with the works of Omar Khayyam (c. 1048 to after 1122) and the Azerbaijani poet Nezami (1141–1209), particularly the latter’s Quintuplet (Khamseh). Alongside these developments, a complex rhetorical style became widespread toward the beginning of the 12th century; this was called the Iraqi style and is exemplified by the qasida of Muezzi (died 1127), Abu-al-Faraj Runi (died 1130), Amaq of Bukhara (died 1148), and Rashid-e Vatvat (died 1182) and the works of the great panegyrist Anvari (died c. 1170) and of the philosophical poet Kaqani (died 1199). Rhetorical styles typify 12th-century prose as well, as in Abu-al-Maali’s new variants of Kalila va Dimna (1144), al-Zahiri’s Sendbad-nameh (1160), the didactic composition Marzban-nameh, and, particularly, Hamid-al-Din Balkhi’s Maqamat-e Hamidi, modeled on the Arabic maqamas. A new development in the 12th-century Iranian literature was the enormous folk-literature work Samak the Ayyar (trickster), transcribed from the words of a storyteller in 1189.

After the decline brought on by the Mongol conquest (1220–56), a new flowering of Iranian classical literature took place in the late 13th and 14th centuries, represented by the panegyric poetry of Imami Kermani (died 1277), Human Tabrizi (died 1314), and particularly Salman Savaji (c. 1300–75). The followers of Nezami—the Indian Persian-language poet Amir Khosrow Dehlavi (1253–1325) and Khvaju-e Kermani (1281 to c. 1352)—revived the heroic-didactic epic and widened the thematic range of the ghazal, giving it the function of the panegyric qasida. The Sufi poet and philosopher Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207–73), who lived in Turkey, elevated the individual to the level of divinity. During the same period, the humanist current in literature grew stronger, represented by the satirical writer Zakani (died between 1366 and 1370), the bard of the Sarbadar popular movement Ibn-e Yamin (died 1368), the famous poets Sadi (born 1203–1210; died 1292) and Hafez (1300–89), and Kamal Kho-jandi (died between 1390 and 1405). In the 15th century, Persian-language poetry reached its zenith in the work of Jami (1414–92), the head of the literary school of Herat and a teacher and friend of the Uzbek poet Alisher Navoi (died 1501).


In the 16th century, the Iranian and Tajik literatures, which had previously followed more or less the same course, began to diverge. Azerbaijani, Uzbeks, Turks, and other Turkic-speaking peoples, who had earlier written mainly in Persian, began to write in their own languages, only in isolated cases maintaining the bilingual tradition. Democratic genres in the folklore tradition developed, including the literary dastan. The marsiyeh, a form of Shiite mystery poetry, became established as an independent genre at this time; the first recorded narrative tragic mysteries, or taziyeh (tazia), date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The classical tradition continued to develop, primarily within the framework of court literature, and became imitative, often limited to intimate lyrics and qasida in honor of Safavid monarchs, as in the cases of the poets Ahli Shirazi (died 1536), Vahshi of Bafq (died 1583), and the “king of poets” Zulali Khvansari (died 1615). Many Iranian poets settled in Central Asia, Turkey, and especially India, where poetry in Persian had deep roots: Orfi Shirazi (died 1591), Naziri Nishaburi (died 1612), Zuhuri of Khojand (killed in 1615), and Saeb Isfahani (1601–77). Persian poetry flowered particularly from the mid- 17th to mid-18th century in the empire of the Great Moguls, where it was not limited by the restrictions of court literature and expressed a protest against social injustice. Representatives of this period are Zebunnisa (1639–1702), Bedil (1644–1721), and Sheykh Hazin (1692–1766), who also touched on complex problems of morality and philosophy.

Toward the 17th century, under the influence of Indian Persian-language literature, Persian poetry everywhere adopted the complex, or Indian, style (sabk-e hendi). Various formalistic schools arose. One, the tazriq (“injection”), in effect eliminated all content from poetry. A reaction against the poets’ refusal to depict reality took shape in the baz-gasht (“return”) movement, whose proponents (the 18th-century poets Moshtaq Isfahani, Hajji Suleyman Sabakhi Bidgali Kashani, and Hatef of Isfahan) strove to return to poetry the lucid style of the early Iranian classics. Qaem-maqam Farahani (1778–1835), a court poet of Fath-Ali-Shah Qajar, was a resolute opponent of the ornate Indian style. The baz-gasht movement found notable representatives also in Abdul-Vahhab Nashat of Isfahan (1758–1828), in Mirza Mohammad Shaft Visal (died 1846), the founder of the genre of travel notes in verse, in Habibollah Qaani (1808–54), and in Sorush Isfahani (died 1865). Among 19th-century poets, the most famous are Yaghma Jandaqi (1782–1859), author of the satirical Sardar-nameh, and Abu-Nasr Fathullah-Khan Sheybani (died 1889), whose works marked the strengthening of the critical principle in Iranian literature. The last 19th-century poet famed for his qasidas and chakamehs (odes) was Mahmud Khan Saba (1813–94).

The genre of travel notes and memoirs, which acquainted the Iranian reader with the life and social structure of European countries and prepared a foundation for modern Iranian prose (for example, The Diary of Mirza Saleh-beg Shirazi, 1807), came into being in the early 19th century.

The translation in 1874 of the comedies of the noted Azerbaijani enlightenment figure M. F. Akhundov held great significance for the spread of enlightenment ideas. The influence of Akhundov’s prose can be traced through the works of Mirza Malkom-Khan (1833–1908), in the publicist novel Travels of Ibrahim-beg, or The Sorrows of His Love for the Homeland (1905–08) of Zeyn al-Abedin Maraghei (1838–1910), in the enlightenment works of Talibuf (1855–1910), and in the pamphlets and feuilletons of Ali Akbar Dehkhoda (1879–1956), published in the newspaper Sure Esrafil (Trumpet of Esrafil).

During the Iranian Revolution of 1905–11 and the national liberation movement of 1918–21, satirical poetry, closely allied with journalism, became the herald of democratic ideas. It is represented by the work of Ali Akbar Dehkhoda, Adib al-Mamalek (pseudonym of Mirza Sadeq-Khan Farahani; 1861–1917), Majad al-Eslam Kermani (1871–1924), Mohammad Taqi Bahar (1886–1951), Iraj-Mirza Jalal al-Mamalek (1874–1926), and the poet and musician Mirza Abd-al-Qasem (pseudonym, Aref Qazvini; c. 1882–1933). The works of Mohammad Far-rokhi Yazdi (1889–1939) and Mirzadeh Eshqi (1894–1924), poets who became the victims of feudal reaction, are anticolonialist and antifeudal. Socialist ideas found expression in the works of Abul-Qasem Lahuti (1887–1957), who lived in the USSR after 1922. At the end of World War I, the Iranian Literary Society was formed in Tehran (it was renamed the Society of the Sage Nezami in the late 1930’s); its main organs were the journals Danesh-kadeh (Place of Wisdom, 1918–19) of Mohammad Taqi Bahar and Armaghan (The Gift, published since 1920) of Vahid Dastgerdi (1879–1943).

The growth of national consciousness and the nascent interest in Iran’s past fostered the development of the historical novel, which at first continued the traditions of the dastan, as in the trilogy Shams o Toghra (1910) by Mohammad Baqer, about Mongol rule in Iran; Love and Power (1919) by Sheykh Musa Natari, on Cyrus the Great; Tale of Antiquities (1921) by Hasan-khan Badi; and the novels of Sanati-zadeh Kermani, who is also known for his social Utopia Assembly of Fools (1924–25). The founder of the contemporary realistic story was Sayyed Mohammad Ali Jamal-zadeh, author of the collection Things That Were and Were Not (1921–24; Russian translation, 1935). The decline of the revolutionary movement in the early 1920’s and increased repression gave a pessimistic tinge to most of the first social novels: Dreadful Tehran (1921–24; Russian translation, 1934–36) by Mortaza Moshfeq Kazemi (born 1887), Man (1925) and Black Destiny (1931) by Abbas Khalili, Shahrnaz (1926) by Yahya Doulatabadi, Homa (1927) and Ziba (1930) by Mohammad Hejazi (born 1896), and Farangis (1931) by Said Nafisi (1895–1966). The social novella The Black Destiny of the Laborer (1926; translated into Russian as The Peasants’ Lot, 1931) by Ali-khan Khodadadeh is permeated with a spirit of hopeless despair.

The 1930’s, when the dictatorship of Reza Shah became more oppressive, came to be called the black period (dowreh-ye siyah) of Iranian literature. The qasida, a panegyric honoring the head of a dynasty, was resurrected. Many poets were forced to resort to pseudonyms and allegory—for example, the poetess Parvin Etesami (1907–41). Experimentation in poetic form was a form of resistance to the official literature of the period. The poet Nima Yushij (1895–1961), attacking the canons of the aruz, or traditional poetic system, introduced free verse (sher-e nou). While historical novels took on a loyalist hue (Mirza Heydar Ali Kermani, Hoseyn Roknzadeh Adamiyat), social novels depicted mainly the life of the upper classes, for example, the naturalist novels Night and Day Entertainments (1932) and The Noblest Creation (1934) by Mohammad Masud Dehati (killed in 1948) and / Cried Too and Caravan of Love by Jahangir Jalali and the stories of Ali Dashti (born 1895). The sharply critical, socially oriented works of Sadeq Hedayat (1903–51) were a major literary event in the 1930’s. Typical of certain works of this period is the influence of modernist, Western aesthetics in some stories in Hedayat’s collections Buried Alive (1930) and Three Drops of Blood (1932) and particularly in his novella The Blind Owl (1936, Bombay). Bozorg Alavi (born 1904), a member of Hedayat’s literary circle, the “Rab’a,” published in 1935 a collection of realistic stories, The Suitcase, in which he ridiculed the Europomania of some Iranian intellectuals.

After the fall of Reza Shah’s regime in 1941, literature in Iran, especially prose, blossomed anew. The First Congress of Iranian Writers was held at Tehran in 1946. The principle of realism became more dominant in Hedayat’s work, especially in the story collections Stray Dog (1943) and Debauchery (1944) and in the novella Hajji Aqa (1945). Many writers produced new realistic works: Bozorg Alavi, whose Fifty-three (1942) describes the repression of progressive cultural figures in the 1930’s, also wrote Notes From Prison (1941) and the novel Her Eyes (1952); Sayyed Mohammad Ali Jamal-zadeh published the collection Uncle Hoseyn-Ali (1942) and the novella-exposes The Madhouse (1942) and Qoltashan-e divan (1945); and Said Nafisi wrote the sharply satirical novel Halfway to Paradise (1953; Russian translation, 1960). The story-miniatures of Behazin (born 1914) and the prose and poetry of Ehsan Tabari (born 1917) are inspired by a profound humanism. Sadeq Chubak wrote satirical plays and stories, such as the collections Puppet Theater and The Monkey Whose Master Died (1949). The director and short-story writer Abd al-Husayn Nushin (1910–1971) wrote the play The First Cockcrow (1947) about the struggle of the Iranian workers; Ahmad Sadeq treats the same theme in his stories. Social themes typify Javad Fazel’s novellas Love and Tears (1952) and Fallen Woman (1952). Mohammad Taqi Bahar, head of the Iranian Society of Defenders of Peace, has written poems devoted to the struggle for peace. Many works by Russian and Soviet authors have been translated into Persian.

When the battle against coercion by foreign oil companies was mounting, anti-imperialist verses were produced by the poets Sha-rang, Abu Torab Jali (born 1906), and Faridun Tavalloli (born 1917), the author of a poem about V. I. Lenin. The works of the poetess Zhaleh Soltani (born 1922) and the poet Saye (born 1927) are full of social and political content. The works of Ehsan Tabari and the satires of Afrashteh (1908–59) confirmed the place of free verse in Iranian literature. The traditions of classical Iranian poetry are being carried on by Mohammad Hoseyn Shahriyar (born 1906), Rahi Moayeri (born 1909), Parviz Natel Khanlari (born 1913), and Mahdi Hamidi (born 1914). Pessimistic views have become dominant since 1955 in the works of Hasan Honarmandi and the poetess Siminbar Behbahani (born 1927); the influence of Sufism flavors the philosophical lyrics of Nader Naderpur (born 1929) and of the poetess Lobat Sheybani (born 1932). In the novels and novellas of the young artists who entered the literary arena in the 1960’s, there is an increased interest in the social problems of contemporary Iran—for example, The Dwellers of Sorrow Block (1964) by Etemadi, When the Angels Cried (1963) by Oskui, and The Language of Tears (1965) by Sarkosh. Feudal survivals, ignorance, and obscurantism in life are subjected to withering criticism in the social novels The Husband of Ahu-Khanom (1962) by Ali Mohammad Afghani, Grieving Bayala (1965) by Gholam Ho-seyn Saedi, and Legends and Sorcery (1968) by Didevar. The struggle continues between the proponents of a new poetry and the traditionalists, who subordinate the form and content of their work to classical canons.

Literary scholarship in Iran has existed since the early Middle Ages. Beginning in the 12th century, there were unique compilations of bibliographical anthologies, or tazkereh, combining selected examples of poetry with information on poets’ lives. Such tazkereh as Heart of Hearts (1220) by Owfi and the Tazkeratal-shoara (1487) by Doulatshah al-Samarqandi still possess scholarly value. Great attention was paid to poetics, and the science of the aruz (elm-e aruz) came into being. Shams-e Qays Razi’s Ketab al-mojam (13th century) is devoted to the codification of the aruz. Parviz Natel Khanlari, a modern literary scholar, has written The Meters of Persian Verse (1959) on the aruz. Textology and literary history and criticism developed in 20th-century Iran under European influence. Mirza Mohammad Abdul-vahhab Qazvini was the first important literary scholar of the modern school; he prepared and published numerous critical texts of the classical period, as well as the major medieval tazkereh, and has written works on the history of Iranian and Arabic literature. The publication of Mohammad Taqi Bahar’s three-volume Stylistics was a major literary event. Numerous articles, monographs, and textological works have been written by S. Nafisi, Mohammad Ali Tarbiyat, Zabihollah Safa, Rezazadeh Shafaq, and other professors at the University of Tehran. Typical of works written in the 1950’s and 1960’s are attempts by Iranian philologists not only to provide in-depth literary analyses but also to define theoretically the literary process itself. Interest in the problems of literary realism is expressed in Mitra’s Realism and Antirealism, A. Dastagheyb’s A Study of Modern Persian Verse (1966), and A. Zarrenkub’s Poetry Without Liesand Concealment (1968).



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Works of art in Iran date back to the most ancient epochs. Remains have been preserved of Neolithic farming settlements with adobe and mud-brick houses containing traces of wall paintings, as well as bone and terra-cotta figurines of people and animals, decorated unglazed ceramics, zoomorphic vessels, and cylinder seals (fifth and fourth millennia B.c.; Tepe Sialk near Kashan, Susa, and Tall-e Bakun near Persepolis). In the third and second millennia B.C. in the southeastern Iranian state of Elam, an art similar to that of Mesopotamia developed (the Choga-Zambil ziggurat; bas-reliefs on cliffs in Fars, Khuzistan, and Kurdistan; and ceramics, seals, and articles made of gold, silver, and ivory found at Susa). Findings at grave sites of the 12th to seventh centuries B.C. (Tepe Sialk, near Kashan; Marlik, in Gilan; Ziwiyeh, in Kurdistan) have included art objects made of precious metals, small works of plastic art, and figured and decorated ceramic vessels; their quality testifies to a high level of artistic creativity among the ancient Iranians. During the Median period (the first half of the first millennium B.C.) the mighty fortifications of the capital city of Ecbatana (now Hama-dan) were erected, and cliff tombs with bicolumnar facade niches were built at Dai-Dokhtar in southern Iran and at Dukkan-e Daud, southeast of Qasr-e Shirin.

During the Achaemenid period, palace architecture reached a grand scale, as in the capital complexes at Pasargadae, founded in the 550’s; Persepolis, founded in 518; and Susa, 521 to the early fourth century. The Achaemenid palaces are typified by apadanas (throne rooms) with cedar-beam roofs (Pasargadae, Persepolis). Bell-shaped bases and capitals with protomas (doubled half-figures) of bulls, lions, and griffins (Persepolis, Susa) were common. Mud brick, wood, and stone were the chief building materials. Colored plaster, gold trimming on the cedar roof beams, and reliefs of animals on doorcases provided decoration. Stone reliefs fronting the walls, stairs, and entrance to the palace at Persepolis and the multicolored, glazed reliefs of the palace at Susa glorified the power of the king and his state. Cult buildings of the period were the square, four-pillared Zoroastrian sanctuaries and the square stone towers where the holy fire was kept (the Kabeh-ye Zardusht in the necropolis of Naqsh-e Rustam, near Persepolis). The royal tombs of the Achaemenids are carved in cliffs in a broad cruciform pattern, with columns cut at either side of the entry (a Median tradition) and with reliefs in the upper portion depicting allegorical figures or the king being blessed by a divinity (Naqsh-e Rustam). The tomb of Cyrus at Pasargadae is unusual in its form: a right-angled room with a two-pitched roof is raised on a stepped foundation of cut-stone blocks. The decorative applied arts are represented by engraved and chased gold and silver vessels, jewelry, seals, and coins decorated with plant and animal motifs, hunting scenes, depictions of the king single-handedly battling a wild beast, and heraldry.

Seleucid art in Iran is dominated by Hellenistic models (the temple at Kangavar, second century B.C.). In the Parthian period a type of building with iwans, or audience halls, opening onto interior courtyards was introduced (the palace on Kuh-e Hoja, near Lake Hamun).

The Sassanid period was an epoch of intensive urban construction. Cities were built inside round (Gur, now Firuzabad) or rectangular fortress walls, often according to a regular plan; Nishapur, for example, had a uniform, chessboard-like plan. Buildings were erected of stone, baked brick, or mud brick, with domes with parabolic profiles. Cupolas on squinches were erected. Sassanid palaces, which were built on a grand scale, were typified by a great domed iwan, enlarged by a cupola, and massive round counterforce columns (Firuzabad, third century A.D.; Sarvestan, fifth century). The cult buildings of the Sassa-nids are open-air stone altars and Zoroastrian chortak temples—square, cupola-crowned pavilions with four arches on angular abutments. Sculpture was the principal form of Sassanid representational art. Very little sculpture in the round has survived, save for a statue of King Shapur I carved out of a gigantic stalactite in a cave near Bishapur and bronze busts from Mazandaran, but there are bas-relief panels of cast stucco and the well-known cliff reliefs (more than 30; at Naqsh-e Rustam, Bishapur, and elsewhere) depicting scenes of triumph and investiture of the king by a, divinity. Decorative sculpture adorned the facades and interiors of buildings. Interiors were also decorated with carved stucco, wall paintings, and mosaics with depictions of people, sometimes in the form of portraits, and animals, birds, and fish; stylized vegetal and geometrical motifs are typical of the carved stucco decoration. The most common examples of Sassanid applied decorative art are gold and silver vessels with exquisite chased, cast, or engraved decorations (royal hunts and feasts, mythological beasts, ceremonial scenes, and scenes from popular legends); bronze ewers and censers in the form of animals; cut glass, gems, and semiprecious stone amulets with portraits of kings or figures of animals; coins; and woolen and silk fabrics.

The Arab conquest (seventh century) and the spread of Islam brought new types of buildings, such as mosques with minarets, Islamic colleges (madrasahs), mausoleums, covered markets, caravansaries (khans), and baths (hammams). Medieval fortress cities were built: two main streets, linking four city gates, intersected at the central square, or meydan, where the palace, bazaar, and cathedral mosque were located; a citadel (ark) was sometimes located at the center as well. The main avenues divided the city into quarters with their own bazaars and networks of narrow, twisted streets. Outside the gates were craftsmen’s suburbs, also surrounded by walls. The main building materials were mud brick, baked brick, and stone. Arches and domes gradually became arrow-shaped (the Tarik-khaneh mosque at Damghan, eighth century). Variants of ribbed domes and cupolas on squinches developed. Buildings were decorated with carved stucco (the Nain mosque, tenth century) and ornamental masonry designs (the minaret of the Tarik-khaneh Mosque at Damghan, 1058). Early mosques preserve the form of the chortak or iwan (the mosque in Neyriz, 974). The Iranian mosque type developed around the 12th century: a right-angled court surrounded by galleries with four iwans at the axes and a domed hall behind one of them, as in the mosque in Zavar, near Arde-stan (1135), and the Cathedral Mosque of Isfahan with its courtyard with galleries and four iwans. Minarets were erected at mosques; early minarets were square or square in basic plan but with an octagonal shaft. From the 11th century mosques were round, narrowing toward the top, with bands of figured masonry, a crown of stalactites, and, in the upper part, a small tower with a cupola (the minaret in Bestam, 1120). Mausoleums were built in the form of round or star-shaped towers with tent-like coverings (the mausoleum at Gonbad-e Qabus near Gorgan, 1006) or as cubelike structures topped with cupolas (the shrine of Dovazdah Imam at Yazd, 1037).

The spread of Islam in Iran was accompanied by a change in aesthetics and by the growth of ornamentation, calligraphy, and the decorative principle in representational art. Seventh-to 13th-century fragments of wall paintings and stucco reliefs with court and hunting scenes have been preserved from palaces in Saveh, Rey, and Nishapur of the eighth to early 13th centuries—for example, a fresco fragment of the 12th-13th centuries in the Kelekian Collection in Paris, and a 12th-century stucco panel depicting a court scene in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi’s Book of Descriptions of the Fixed Constellations (1009–10; Bodleian Library, Oxford), written in the province of Fars and illustrated with personifications of the constellations, attests to the presence of the art of the miniature. Decorative and applied art, which still maintained a connection with pre-Islamic traditions, developed greatly. Early metal objects (bronze censers, pitchers, and ewers) resemble those of the Sassanid era. During the Seljuk period (11th-12th centuries), bronze vessels with copper and silver inlay decorated with fine engravings or open-work patterns, sometimes combined with relief and three-dimensional figures, became common. Ceramics was one of the major arts of the ninth to 13th century, with subglaze monochrome and polychrome painting and with luster painting and overglaze multicolor pictures in fusible enamels, the minai (12th-13th centuries). The main ceramics centers were Nishapur, Rey, Kashan, Varamin, Sultanabad, and Saveh. Multicolored glass vases, flagons, and dishes were produced, and richly ornamented fabrics were woven. Artistic handicrafts were adorned with vegetal motifs, depictions of people and animals, and inscriptions. There are often epic scenes, mostly on ceramic ware and mainly from the Shah-nameh—for example, Bahram Gur and Azadeh at the Hunt and Bizhan and Manizheh—as well as scenes of royal feasts, hunts, battles, and polo games.

New features appeared in architecture during the rule of the Hulaguid Il-khans (mid-13th to 14th century): arches and niches were carved in the iwans; a semicupola would be raised over the iwan of the portal; and in cult architecture, the single, freestanding minaret was replaced with two graceful towers over the portal. All elements of facade and interior were narrowed and stretched upward. The main building materials were baked brick and mud brick. Variants of domes were rested on transverse supporting arches (the Imami Madrasah at Isfahan). High, cell-patterned cupolas appeared in southwestern Iran. Stalactites on cornices and domes were widely used. The use of patterns in brick, however, gradually vanished. Buildings were full of multicolored decor—painted carved stucco, ornamental wall painting, glazed ceramics (including facing panels with luster painting), and carved poured terra-cotta. Large cult ensembles, joining several buildings, were constructed, for example, the mosque, minaret, and khanehgah (madrasah) complex at Na-tanz (1304—25). Caravansaries opening onto courts were also constructed, as were bridges and bathhouses. Tower mausoleums continued to be built in northern Iran, and cube-shaped structures with sharply pointed, cell-patterned cupolas dominated in the southwest. Notable architectural masterpieces of the period include the octagonal mausoleum of Oljeytu-Khodaban-deh in Soltaniyeh (built by Ali-Shah, 1305–13). Cult buildings of Iran in the late 14th and 15th centuries (the period of Timur [Tamerlane] and the rule of the Timurids) were crowned with a blue ceramic-faced cupola on a drum; the portals were flanked by minarets; and facades were adorned with an unbroken carpet of poured ceramics (the mosque of Gowhar Shad in Meshed, 1405–18; built by Qavam al-Din Shirazi).

Miniatures are prominent in the representational art of the 14th and 15th centuries. Characteristic of miniatures of the early 14th century (Shiraz) is a similarity to wall paintings, with crude drawing, large human figures, and predominating gold, red, and yellow tones (Shah-nameh, 1333; M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin Public Library, Leningrad). In the late 14th century, and particularly in the early 15th century, miniatures were closely linked to the text and general artistic composition of the manuscript. A complex composition, often with many figures, careful depiction of the character and his surroundings, painstakingly exact portrayal of the landscape, refined drawing, and rich combinations of color characterize the Iranian medieval miniature at its zenith (The Iskandar Anthology, 1410; Gulbenkian Collection, Lisbon). Other cities joined Shiraz in the mid-15th century as centers of the art of the minature; the Herat school was particularly important. Elements of Far Eastern ornamentation, such as phoenix and dragon motifs, were introduced to Iranian textiles and ceramics after the 13th-century Mongol conquest. Ornamental compositions were predominant in metal objets d’art in the 14th and 15th centuries; figures of living beings were rarely found.

Architecture of the Safavid period is noted for its colossal scale, solemn luxuriance, massiveness, exquisite and varied detail, and complex, vivid decor. Urban construction proceeded on the grand scale; great architectural ensembles were erected, the most vivid and brilliant of which was New Isfahan, with its vast Meydan-e Shah and Chahar-Bagh Avenue and the palaces, mosques, caravansaries, and gardens ranged about them, as well as the great bridges over the Zayandeh-rud. Caravansary architecture was perfected. Painting (in the palace of Ali Qapu and the Chehel-Sotun in Isfahan and the palaces in Kazvin), multicolored majolica (a panel of painted majolica tiles with garden scenes), and sculpture in the round (at the palace of Chehel-Sotun in Isfahan) contributed to Safavid splendor.

Miniature art improved still further in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Tabriz school of the capital played a leading role in the early 16th century. In the late 16th century Meshed became an artistic center; a court school arose in Kazvin (Ball and Club by Arifi, 1580–90; M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin Public Library, Leningrad). The Shiraz school of miniatures continued to develop (illustrations of Nezami’s Khamseh, 1560, by the artist Bahram Afshar Aqa; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris). The Isfahan school of the capital, headed by the prominent Iranian artist Reza Abbasi, flourished in the early 17th century. The sphere of application of miniature painting widened; miniatures were done on separate sheets as well as in manuscripts. The character and means of depiction changed, and the genre of the portrait miniature developed. In the 17th century line drawing with light coloring became the predominant style; efforts to produce chiaroscuro reveal an acqaintance with Western European art. The development of the miniature was accompanied by advances in the art of making manuscript books; the frontispiece had rich ornamentation about the title, and the margins were full of vegetal arabesques and scenes of the hunt and of battles between animals, all in gold; the manuscript itself was bound in gold-stamped leather or in painted and lacquered bindings.

Safavid applied decorative art was distinguished for its woven fabrics and carpets; the main carpet-weaving centers were Tabriz, Kashan, Isfahan, and Yazd. Silk, satin, brocade, and velvet fabrics reached a high level of artistry. Tapestries with themes from Iranian poems and legends have achieved wide renown (Iskandar Conquering the Dragon, a fabric of the “Godunov” robe at the Armory of the Kremlin, Moscow). Woolen and silk rugs, sometimes with interwoven gold and silver thread, are splendid for their color and ornamentation. Such rugs are divided by subject into “animal,” “hunting,” “garden,” and “vase” types. Their patterns depict marvelous gardens in flower. In ceramics of the 16th and 17th centuries from Kashan, Kerman, and Yazd, a new type of decoration was developed, depicting mainly flowers and landscapes with cobalt on a white background. Metal objects were decorated with designs covering the entire surface or with heavily ornamented medallions on a smooth background.

The economic slump of the 18th and 19th centuries sharply limited construction. Domestic and utilitarian structures (markets, caravansaries, baths, and reservoirs) preserved their unique design, and ceramics, carpet weaving, and metalwork maintained the national traditions. Qalamkars—decorative handprinted carpets and fabrics with unrefined scenes—became widespread, as well as genre and religious painting of a cheap, popular variety. Oil and watercolor painting arose as a result of artists’ familiarity with European art (Sani al-Molk, Mahmud Malek al-Shoar). Lotf Ali pursued the miniature tradition.

Major advances in art and architecture took place in the 20th century. New types of buildings were introduced, such as the University of Tehran, built in the 1930’s by A. Godard. Residential and public buildings, bridges, hydrotechnical structures (the Safid Rud dam), and industrial structures were constructed of reinforced concrete, glass, and metal. Since the 1950’s, Iran’s architecture has developed very rapidly; government and memorial buildings, hotels, hospitals, and schools have been erected: the Senate building in Tehran (1959) and the Hilton Hotel near Tehran (1962) by the architects M. Forowghi and H. Giahi and the Reza Shah hospital in Meshed (1965) by H. Giahi. Iranian architects blend modern architectural principles and national traditions in their structures, as in the work of Kh. Seyhun, designer of the mausoleums of Avicenna in Hama-dan (1952) and Nadir-shah at Meshed (1961) and the pavilion-rotunda over the grave of Omar Khayyam in Nishapur (1963). Soviet architects are participating in Iranian urban construction; the new city of Aryashahr with a metallurgical plant, spiral-radial in design, is being built 40 km from Isfahan (designed in 1969–70 by A. I. Melik-Pashaev and other architects).

Since the early 20th century sculpture, painting, and graphics (particularly book illustration and advertising posters) in the European style have developed; the portrait and landscape genres are popular, along with political themes and vignettes of everyday life. The path of realism has been chosen by Kamal al-Molk (founded the School of Painting and Sculpture at Tehran in 1920), Hasan Ali Vaziri (painter and sculptor), Mohsen Moqaddam (painter), and Abulqasem Sadeghi (sculptor). Realist painters devote their works to the life of the working people (the paintings Village Spring, by Abdollah Amari; Woman With Child, by Leyla Matin Daftari; and Hushang Pezeshk-Niya’s engravings), as well as to depicting nature (Hoseyn Mehjudi’s landscapes) and the struggle for peace (Reza Mesah). Miniaturists like Hoseyn Behzad strive to revive the traditions of the old masters. Various modernistic trends are developing (Behjat Sadr, Ashot Minasian, Ahmad Isfandiari). Traditional forms are preserved in applied decorative art. The Higher School of Decorative Arts was founded in Tehran in 1959. There artists strive to master the traditions of the miniature, calligraphy, ceramics, carpet weaving, and other national art forms. The main folk arts are wood, mother-of-pearl, and bone inlaying and metal chasing (centers at Isfahan and Shiraz).


Denike, B. P. Zhivopis’ Irana. Moscow, 1938.
Ashrafi, M. Miniatiury XVI veka v spiskakh proizvedenii Dzhami iz sobranii SSSR. Moscow [1966].
Persidskie miniatiuryXIV-XVII vv. Moscow, 1968. (Introductory article by O. F. Akimushkin and A. A. Ivanov.)
Lukonin, V. G. “Iskusstvo Irana.” In Iskusstvo drevnego Vostoka. Moscow, 1968.(Pamiatniki mirovogo iskusstva.)
A Survey of Persian Art: From Prehistoric Times to the Present, vols. 1–6. Edited by A. U. Pope and P. Ackerman. London-New York, 1938-39.
Gray, R. La Peinture persane. Geneva, 1961.
Godard, A. L’Art de /’Iran. Paris, 1962.
Ghirschman, R. Parthes et Sassanides: Iran. Paris, 1962.
Pope, A. U. Persian Architecture. London, 1965.
Tadjvidi, Akbar. L’Art moderne en Iran. Tehran, 1967.
Mazaheri, A. Les Tresors de I’Iran. Geneva, 1970.

B. V. VEIMARN (medieval fine art), V. L. VORONJNA
(ancient art, architecture of the seventh-20th centuries),
and O. P. GALERKINA (20th-century fine art)

Professional (classical) and folk music in Iran possess an age-old tradition and are basically monodic. Iranian music is based on an original modal system of dastgahs, or 24-tone scales, containing intervals of quarter and three-quarter tones. There are seven main dastgahs (shur, mahur, homayun, segah, chahargah, nava, and rasi) and numerous supplementary ones. These are used by the composer, who is simultaneously the performer, in making melody. Popular forms, such as tasnifs (ballads), taraneh (local songs), qasida (odes), and ghazals (lyric songs), are widespread. Maqamas, or vocal-instrumental suites consisting of several parts in a given mode with variations of tempo and rhythm, are popular. Among popular instruments are the saz and tar (stringed, plucked), the kamancheh (stringed, bowed), the karnai and zurna (wind), and the zarb (drum).

There is almost no information on ancient Iranian music, but musical instruments and aesthetic theories that draw general conclusions from and evaluate various musical phenomena indicate ties with Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of world civilization. Arabic-Islamic culture exerted an influence on Iranian music following the Arab conquest, while the Arabs in turn adopted many elements of Persian music. Court art flourished after the ninth century, and motrebs (singing dancers) became popular among the people. Music theory developed.

The theoretician, composer, and performer Urmavi (13th century) acquired great renown. Musical notation is known dating back to the 15th century.

In the late 19th century European music began to exert an influence on Iran, and a music school of the European type was founded at the Imperial College in Tehran. In the 1920’s, Ali Naqi Vaziri, a composer, virtuoso tar player, and professor at the University of Tehran, instituted the study of folk music, transcribed the dastgahs, published a textbook of music theory, and opened a music school in Tehran, where Iran’s first professional musicians studied. In the early 1930’s the Higher School of Music in Tehran (since the late 1940’s, a conservatory) and many private music schools were founded. Among Iranian composers and musical scholars are Abdolhasan Saba, Ali Naqi Vaziri, R. Khaleghi, F. Farzaneh, Kh. Sanjari, A. M. Rashidi, Kh. Ostovar, and A. Pazhman. Musicians, singers, and dancers include F. Saba, F. Panah, T. Ashot, S. Tajbakhsh, Kh. Sar-shar, T. Nikju, M. Vakili, A. Melkonian, M. Chkhari, Parsi, E. Rezaii, and F. Afyatpur.

Iran has the Rudaki Opera and Ballet Theater (1967, Tehran), the ballet troupe of Television of Iran, the Philharmonia (founded 1953), two symphonic orchestras, and conservatories and ballet schools in various cities. National arts festivals have been held at Shiraz since 1968.


Inostrantsev, K. A. Sasanidskie etiudy. St. Petersburg, 1909.
Bertel’s, E. E. “Teoriia muzyki v sovremennoi Persii.” In the collection Muzykal’naia etnografiia. Leningrad, 1926.
Beliaev, V. Persidskie tesnify. Moscow, 1964.


The origins of the Iranian theater are to be found in ancient ritual. Information has come down to us concerning the ancient bazigar theater (resembling the medieval jongleurs or skomorokhi); the arts of pantomime and of shadow and puppet theater were known. There were masques and ritual spectacles called zadeh. The mystery, which became part of the religious shahsey-vahsey procession, developed in the tenth century. Mysteries were transcribed in the 17th and 18th centuries, giving rise to the taziyeh, a form of Persian tragedy. Until the 1930’s there were wandering actors called mashareh-bazes.

In 1890 a court theater was founded at the Tehran Polytechnic Institute. A theatrical company, Farhang (Culture), was formed in the early 20th century, and the National Theater was founded in 1911–12. The Comedy of Iran theater, schooled in the ways of the European theater, was formed in 1917. The actor Sayyed Ali Nasr helped found these theaters. Women appeared as actresses in 1929; before then, men had performed all roles. In 1932, the first theatrical artist, S. Kermanshahi, organized the Theater Studio in Tehran, which became the center of progressive Iranian theater. The theater’s repertoire in the 1930’s and 1940’s consisted of melodramas and adaptations of Western European plays. The Ferdowsi Theater operated in Tehran between 1945 and 1949; its leading actor and director was Abd al-Hoseyn Nushin, who presented plays by progressive playwrights and was for this reason subjected to persecution and repression. The Iranian theater suffered a crisis after the late 1940’s because of the lack of consistent funding, adequate theater accommodations, and professional actors.

The Iranian theater was revived in the early 1960’s. A dramatic studio training professional actors was formed in Tehran in 1963. Professional troupes appeared: Theater Today (directed by M. Jaffari), the National Troupe (directed by A. Javanmard), and the troupe of the Ministry of Art and Culture. Among well-known actors are Mostafa Oskuyi, Mahin Oskuyi, Mohammad Ali Keshavarz, Rahmaddin Khosrovi, Jafar Vali, and Amir Shervan. Works by the Russian and Soviet playwrights A. N. Ostrovskii, M. Gorky, and A. N. Arbuzov, as well as plays by B. Brecht and other Western European playwrights, were presented in 1968–69 at the new Talar-e Muzeh Theater. The 25 Shahrivar, Kasra, Nasr, and Jameh-ye Barbod theaters are in Tehran; the National Theater is in Meshed; the Sepahan is in Isfahan; and the Buali is in Hamadan. Theatrical festivals have been held annually at Shiraz since 1968. The magazine Majalleh-ye teatr (Theater Magazine, since 1958; titled Teatr from 1952 to 1958) is published in Tehran.


Kryms’kyi, A. E. Pers’kyi teatr. Kiev, 1925.
Beyzayi, B. Namayesh dar Iran (Theater in Iran). Tehran, 1965.
Rezvani, M. Le Théòtre et la danse en Iran. Paris, 1962.


The first motion picture in Iran, the farce Abi Rabi (Ekhanian, director), was filmed in 1930. The first sound picture, The Lor’s Daughter (filmed in India), was released in 1934. Until the 1940’s mainly foreign films were shown. The first film studio, Mitrafilm, was organized in 1946 at Tehran; the films produced here paved the way for regular film production. The best picture of the 1950’s, Port Thief (1954, directed by A. Shirazi), was influenced by Italian neorealism. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, melodramas, musical comedies, and films on mythological and historical themes were produced. Among these are Mazanderan Tiger (directed by S. Khachikian) and Shore of Expectations (directed by S. Yasemi). International film festivals have been held in Tehran since 1955; national festivals have been held since 1964. The Supreme Committee on Cinematography was established in 1964 to assist in the production of educational films and to exercise control over national film production. The directors I. Kushan, M. Misagiyeh, Mokhtasem, M. Mohseni, S. Yasemi, Sh. Rafia, and S. Khachikian have made major contributions to the Iranian film. The actors Vosughi, Fardin, Arman, Zhaleh, Shiva, Shahla, Delkash, and Arham Sadr play film roles. Among the film studios (1971) are Pars-film, Asiya-film, Asra-talai, Misaghiyeh, and Karavan. The magazines Film va honor (since 1965) and Setareh-ye Sinema (since 1965) are published. More than 100 films are produced yearly (1971), and there are about 500 motion-picture theaters (1971).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A type of aircraft inspection in which the aircraft is inspected and needed repairs are carried out. IRAN stands for “inspect and repair as needed.”
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


Official name: Islamic Republic of Iran

Capital city: Tehran

Internet country code: .ir

Flag description: Three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red; the national emblem (a stylized rep­resentation of the word Allah in the shape of a tulip, a symbol of martyrdom) in red is centered in the white band; Allah Akbar (God Is Great) in white Arabic script is repeated 11 times along the bottom edge of the green band and 11 times along the top edge of the red band

Geographical description: Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan

Total area: 636,295 sq. mi. (1.648 million sq. km.)

Climate: Mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspi­an coast

Nationality: noun: Iranian(s); adjective: Iranian

Population: 65,397,521 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%

Languages spoken: Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Tur­kic languages (besides Turkish) 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%

Religions: Muslim 98% (Shi’a 89%, Sunni 9%), other (includes Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha’i) 2%

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in SW Asia, between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf: a monarchy until an Islamic revolution in 1979 headed by the Ayatollah Khomeini when the Shah was obliged to leave the country. Consists chiefly of a high central desert plateau almost completely surrounded by mountains, a semitropical fertile region along the Caspian coast, and a hot and dry area beside the Persian Gulf. Oil is the most important export. Official language: Farsi (Persian). Official religion: Muslim majority. Currency: rial. Capital: Tehran. Pop.: 68 789 000 (2004 est.). Area: 1 647 050 sq. km (635 932 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005