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Islamic Republic of Iran
جمهوری اسلامی ایران
Jomhuri-ye Eslāmi-ye Irān (Persian)
Anthem: مهر خاوران
"The Eastern Sun"
and largest city
Other recognized religions:
|Government||Unitary theocratic presidential republic|
|Legislature||Islamic Consultative Assembly|
|c. 678 BC|
|1 April 1979|
|24 October 1979|
|28 July 1989|
|1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi) (18th)|
• Water (%)
• 2013 estimate
|78,192,200  (17th)|
|48/km2 (124.3/sq mi) (162rd)|
|GDP (PPP)||2014 estimate|
|$1.284 trillion (18th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2014 estimate|
• Per capita
|HDI (2013)|| 0.749|
high · 75th
|Currency||Rial (﷼) (IRR)|
|Time zone||UTC+3:30 (IRST)|
• Summer (DST)
|Date format||yyyy/mm/dd (SH)|
|ISO 3166 code||IR|
Iran (// (listen) or //; Persian: ایران [ʔiːˈɾɑn] (listen)), also known as Persia (// or //), officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan; with Kazakhstan and Russia across the Caspian Sea; to the northeast by Turkmenistan; to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second-largest nation in the Middle East and the 18th-largest in the world. With 78.4 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 17th most populous nation. It is the only country that has both a Caspian Sea and an Indian Ocean coastline. Iran has long been of geostrategic importance because of its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran is home to one of the world's oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Proto-Elamite and Elamite kingdom in 3200–2800 BC. The Iranian Medes unified the area into the first of many empires in 625 BC, after which it became the dominant cultural and political power in the region. Iran reached the pinnacle of its power during the Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC, which at its greatest extent comprised major portions of the ancient world, stretching from parts of the Balkans (Thrace, Paeonia and Macedonia) in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east, making it the largest empire the world had yet seen. The empire collapsed in 330 BC following the conquests of Alexander the Great. The Parthian Empire emerged from the ashes and was succeeded by the Sassanid Dynasty (Neo-Persian empire) in 224 AD, under which Iran again became one of the leading powers in the world, along with the Roman-Byzantine Empire, for a period of more than four centuries.
Rashidun Muslims invaded Persia in 633 AD, and conquered it by 651 AD, largely replacing Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism. Iran thereafter played a vital role in the subsequent Islamic Golden Age, producing many influential scientists, scholars, artists, and thinkers. The emergence in 1501 of the Safavid Dynasty, which promoted Twelver Shia Islam as the official religion, marked one of the most important turning points in Iranian and Muslim history. Starting in 1736 under Nader Shah, Iran reached its greatest territorial extent since the Sassanid Empire, briefly possessing what was arguably the most powerful empire in the world. In the course of the 19th century, Iran irrevocably lost swaths of its territories in the Caucasus region which made part of the concept of Iran for three centuries, to neighboring Imperial Russia. The Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 established the nation's first parliament, which operated within a constitutional monarchy. Following a coup d'état instigated by the U.K. and the U.S. in 1953, Iran gradually became very close allies with the United States and the rest of the West, remained secular, but grew increasingly autocratic. Growing dissent against foreign influence and political repression culminated in the 1979 Revolution, which led to the establishment of an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979.
Tehran is the capital and largest city, serving as the cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a major regional and middle power, exerting considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy through its large reserves of fossil fuels, which include the largest natural gas supply in the world and the fourth-largest proven oil reserves. It hosts Asia's 4th-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, NAM, OIC, and OPEC. Its unique political system, based on the 1979 constitution, combines elements of a parliamentary democracy with a theocracy governed by the country's clergy, wherein the Supreme Leader wields significant influence. A multicultural nation comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, most inhabitants are officially Shia, Iranian rial is the currency, and Persian is the official language.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Geography
- 4 Government and politics
- 5 Economy
- 6 Demographics
- 7 Culture
- 8 See also
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Iran is a Modern Persian derivative from the Proto-Iranian term Āryānam, meaning "land of the Aryans," first attested in Avesta. The term Ērān is found in a 3rd-century Middle Persian inscription at Naqsh-e Rostam, and the term Āryān is used in the Parthian inscription that accompanies it, in reference to Iranians.
Historically, Iran has been referred to as Persia by the West, mainly due to the writings of Greek historians who called Iran Persis (Περσίς), meaning "land of the Persians." As the most extensive and close interaction the Ancient Greeks ever had with any outsider was that with the Persians, the term became coined forever, even long after the Persian rule in Greece.
In 1935, Reza Shah requested the international community to refer to the country by its native name, Iran. As the New York Times explained at the time, "At the suggestion of the Persian Legation in Berlin, the Tehran government, on the Persian New Year, Nowruz, March 21, 1935, substituted Iran for Persia as the official name of the country." Opposition to the name change led to the reversal of the decision, and Professor Ehsan Yarshater, editor of Encyclopædia Iranica (Columbia University), propagated a move to use Persia and Iran interchangeably.
Today, both Persia and Iran are used in cultural contexts; although, Iran is the name used officially in political contexts.
Historical and cultural usage of the word Iran is not restricted to the modern state proper. Irānzamīn or Irān e Bozorg (Greater Iran) correspond to territories of the Iranian cultural and linguistic zones. In addition to modern Iran, it includes portions of Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Central Asia.
The earliest archaeological artifacts in Iran, like those excavated at the Kashafrud and Ganj Par sites, attest to a human presence in Iran since the Lower Paleolithic era, c. 800,000–200,000 BC. Iran's Neanderthal artifacts from the Middle Paleolithic period, c. 200,000–40,000 BC, have been found mainly in the Zagros region, at sites such as Warwasi and Yafteh Cave.[page needed] Around 10th to 8th millennium BC, early agricultural communities such as Chogha Golan and Chogha Bonut began to flourish in Iran, as well as Susa and Chogha Mish developing in and around the Zagros region.[page needed]
The emergence of Susa as a city, as determined by radiocarbon dating, dates back to early 4,395 BC. There are dozens of prehistoric sites across the Iranian plateau, pointing to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the 4th millennium BC. During the Bronze Age, Iran was home to several civilizations including Elam, Jiroft, and Zayande River. Elam, the most prominent of these civilizations, developed in the southwest of Iran, alongside those in Mesopotamia. The emergence of writing in Elam was paralleled to Sumer, and the Elamite cuneiform was developed since the 3rd millennium BC. The Elamite Kingdom continued its existence until the emergence of the Median and Achaemenid empires. Since the 2nd millennium BC, Assyrians settled in swaths of western Iran, and incorporated the region into their territories.
During the 2nd millennium BC, Proto-Iranian tribes arrived in Iran from the Eurasian steppes, rivaling the native settlers of the country. As these tribes dispersed into the wider area of Greater Iran and beyond, the boundaries of modern Iran were dominated by the Persian, Median, and Parthian tribes.
From the late 10th to late 7th centuries BC, the Iranian peoples, together with the "pre-Iranian kingdoms," fell under the domination of the Assyrian Empire, based in northern Mesopotamia. Under king Cyaxares, the Medes and Persians entered into an alliance with Nabopolassar of Babylon, as well as the Scythians and the Cimmerians, and together they attacked the Assyrian Empire. The civil war ravaged Assyrian Empire between 616 BC and 605 BC, thus freeing their respective peoples from three centuries of Assyrian rule. The unification of the Median tribes under a single ruler in 728 BC led to the foundation of the Median Empire which, by 612 BC, controlled the whole Iran and the eastern Anatolia. This marked the end of the Kingdom of Urartu as well, which was subsequently conquered and dissolved.
In 550 BC, Cyrus the Great, son of Mandane and Cambyses I, took over the Median Empire, and founded the Achaemenid Empire by unifying other city states. The conquest of Media was a result of what is called the Persian Revolt. The brouhaha was initially triggered by the actions of the Median ruler Astyages, and was quickly spread to other provinces, as they allied with the Persians. Later conquests under Cyrus and his successors expanded the empire to include Lydia, Babylon, Egypt, parts of the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper, as well as the lands to the west of the Indus and Oxus rivers.
At its greatest extent, the Achaemenid Empire included the modern territories of Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, northeastern Greece and southern Bulgaria (Thrace), most of the Macedonia (Paeonia), Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, all significant ancient population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya, Kuwait, northern Saudi Arabia, parts of the UAE and Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and much of Central Asia, making it the first world government and the largest empire had yet seen. It is estimated that in 480 BC, 50 million people lived in the Achaemenid Empire. According to Guinness World Records, the empire at its peak ruled over 44% of the world's population, the highest such figure for any empire in history. In Greek history, it is considered as the antagonist of the Greek city states, for the emancipation of slaves including the Jewish exiles in Babylon, building infrastructures such as road and postal systems, and the use of an official language, the Imperial Aramaic, throughout its territories. The empire had a centralized, bureaucratic administration under the emperor, a large professional army, and civil services, inspiring similar developments in later empires. Furthermore, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, was built in the empire between 353 to 350 BC.
Eventual conflict on the western borders began with the Ionian Revolt which erupted into the Greco-Persian Wars, and continued through the first half of the 5th century BC, and ended with the Persian withdrawal from all of their European territories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper.
In 334 BC, Alexander the Great invaded the Achaemenid Empire, defeating the last Achaemenid emperor, Darius III, at the Battle of Issus. Following the premature death of Alexander, Iran came under the control of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. In the middle of the 2nd century BC, the Parthian Empire rose to become the main power in Iran, and the century-long geopolitical arch-rivalry between Romans and Parthians began, culminating in the Roman–Parthian Wars. The Parthian Empire continued as a feudal monarchy for nearly five centuries, until 224 CE, when it was succeeded by the Sassanid Empire. Together with their neighboring arch-rival, the Byzantines, they made up the world's two most dominant powers at the time, for over four centuries.
The Sassanids established an empire within the frontiers achieved by the Achaemenids, with their capital at Ctesiphon. The Sassanid Empire of the Late Antiquity is considered as one of the most influential periods of Iran, as Iran influenced the culture of ancient Rome, Africa, China, and India, and played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian medieval art.
Most of the era of both Parthian and Sassanid empires were overshadowed by the Roman-Persian Wars, which raged on their western borders at the Anatolia, the western Caucasus, Mesopotamia, and the Levant, for over 700 years. These wars exhausted both Romans and Sassanids, and led to the defeat of both at the hands of the invading Muslim Arabs.
Several offshoots and descendants of the Achaemenids, Parthians, and Sassanids, established eponymous dynasties and branches in Anatolia and the Caucasus, including the Kingdom of Pontus, the Mihranids, and the Arsacid dynasties of Armenia, Iberia (Georgia), and Caucasian Albania (present-day Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan).
The prolonged Byzantine-Sassanid Wars, most importantly the climactic Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602-628, as well as the social conflict within the Sassanid Empire, opened the way for an Arab invasion to Iran in the 7th century. Initially defeated by the Arab Rashidun Caliphate, Iran came under the rule of the Arab caliphates of Umayyad and Abbasid. The prolonged and gradual process of the Islamization of Iran began following the conquest. Under the new Arab elite of the Rashidun and later the Umayyad caliphates, both converted (mawali) and non-converted (dhimmi) Iranians were discriminated against, being excluded from the government and military, and having to pay a special tax called Jizya. Gunde Shapur, home of the Academy of Gunde Shapur which was the most important medical center of the world at the time, survived after the invasion, but became known as an Islamic institute thereafter.
In 750, the Abbasids overthrown the Umayyads, due mainly to the support from the mawali Iranians. The mawali formed the majority of the rebel army, which was led by the Iranian general Abu Muslim. The arrival of the Abbasid Caliphs saw a revival of Iranian culture and influence, and a move away from the imposed Arabic customs. The role of the old Arab aristocracy was gradually replaced by an Iranian bureaucracy.
After two centuries of the Arab rule, semi-independent and independent Iranian kingdoms such as the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids, and Buyids, began to appear on the fringes of the declining Abbasid Caliphate. By the Samanid era in the 9th and 10th centuries, the efforts of Iranians to regain their independence had been well solidified.
The blossoming literature, philosophy, medicine, and art of Iran became major elements in the formation of a new age for the Iranian civilization, during the period known as the Islamic Golden Age. The Islamic Golden Age reached its peak by the 10th and 11th centuries, during which Iran was the main theater of the scientific activities. After the 10th century, Persian language, alongside Arabic, was used for the scientific, philosophical, historical, musical, and medical works, whereas the important Iranian writers, such as Tusi, Avicenna, Qotb od Din Shirazi, and Biruni, had major contributions in the scientific writing.
The cultural revival that began in the Abbasid period led to a resurfacing of the Iranian national identity, and so earlier attempts of Arabization never succeeded in Iran. The Iranian Shuubiyah movement became a catalyst for Iranians to regain independence in their relations with the Arab invaders. The most notable effect of the movement was the continuation of the Persian language attested to the epic poet Ferdowsi, now regarded as the most important figure in the Iranian literature.
The 10th century saw a mass migration of Turkic tribes from the Central Asia into the Iranian plateau. Turkic tribesmen were first used in the Abbasid army as mamluks (slave-warriors), replacing Iranian and Arab elements within the army. As a result, the mamluks gained a significant political power. In 999, large portions of Iran came briefly under the rule of the Ghaznavids, whose rulers were of mamluk Turk origin, and longer subsequently under the Turkish Seljuk and Khwarezmian empires. These Turks had been Persianized and had adopted Persian models of administration and rulership. The Seljuks subsequently gave rise to the Sultanate of Rum in Anatolia, while taking their thoroughly Persianized identity with them. The result of the adoption and patronage of Persian culture by Turkish rulers was the development of a distinct Turko-Persian tradition.
In 1219–21 the Khwarezmian Empire suffered a devastating invasion by the Mongol army of Genghis Khan. According to Steven R. Ward, "Mongol violence and depredations killed up to three-fourths of the population of the Iranian Plateau, possibly 10 to 15 million people. Some historians have estimated that Iran's population did not again reach its pre-Mongol levels until the mid-20th century." Following the fracture of the Mongol Empire in 1256, Hulagu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, established the Ilkhanate in Iran. In 1370, yet another conqueror, Timur, followed the example of Hulagu, establishing the Timurid Empire which lasted for another 156 years. In 1387, Timur ordered the complete massacre of Isfahan, reportedly killing 70,000 citizens. The Ilkhans and the Timurids soon came to adopt the ways and customs of the Iranians, choosing to surround themselves with a culture that was distinctively Iranian.
Early modern period
By the 1500s, Ismail I from Ardabil, established the Safavid Dynasty, with Tabriz as the capital. Beginning with Azerbaijan, he subsequently extended his authority over all of the Iranian territories, and established an intermittent Iranian hegemony over the vast relative regions, reasserting the Iranian identity within much of the Greater Iran. Ismail instigated a forced conversion from Sunni to Shia branch of Islam, by which the Shia Islam spread throughout the Safavid territories in the Caucasus, Iran, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia. As a result, thereof, the modern-day Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are the only official Shia nations of the world, with it holding an absolute majority in both nations, and having the 1st and 2nd highest number of Shia inhabitants by population percentage in the world.
The centuries-long geopolitical and ideological rivalry between Safavid Iran and the neighboring Ottoman Empire, led to numerous Ottoman–Persian Wars. The Safavid Era peaked in the reign of Abbas the Great, 1587–1629, surpassing their Ottoman arch rivals in strength, and making the empire a leading hub in Western Eurasia for the sciences and arts. The Safavid Era saw a mass integration from Caucasian populations into new layers of the society of Iran, playing a pivotal role in the history of Iran for centuries onwards. Following a gradual decline in the late 1600s and early 1700s, which was caused by the internal conflicts, the continuous wars with the Ottomans, and the foreign interference (most notably the Russian interference), the Safavid rule was ended by the Pashtun rebels who besieged Isfahan and defeated Soltan Hosein in 1722.
In 1729, Nader Shah, a chieftain and military genius from Khorasan, successfully drove out and conquered the Pashtun invaders. He subsequently took back the annexed Caucasian territories which were divided among the Ottoman and Russian authorities by the ongoing chaos in Iran. During the reign of Nader Shah, Iran reached its greatest extent since the Sassanid Empire, reestablishing the Iranian hegemony all over the Caucasus, as well as other major parts of the west and central Asia, and briefly possessing what was arguably the most powerful empire at the time.
Nader Shah invaded India and sacked far off Delhi by the late 1730s. His territorial expansion, as well as his military successes, went into a decline following the final campaigns in the Northern Caucasus. The assassination of Nader Shah sparked a brief period of civil war and turmoil, after which Karim Khan of the Zand Dynasty came to power in 1750, bringing a period of relative peace and prosperity.
The geopolitical reach of the Zand Dynasty was limited, compared to its preceding dynasties, and many of the Iranian territories in the Caucasus gained de facto independence, and were locally ruled through various Caucasian khanates. However, despite the self-ruling, they all remained subjects and vassals to the Zand king. The khanates exercised control over their affairs via international trade routes between Central Asia and the West.
Another civil war ensued after the death of Karim Khan in 1779, out of which Aqa Mohammad Khan emerged, founding the Qajar Dynasty in 1794. In 1795, following the disobedience of the Georgian subjects and their alliance with the Russians, the Qajars captured Tblisi by the Battle of Krtsanisi, and drove the Russians out of the entire Caucasus, reestablishing a short-lived Iranian suzerainty over the region. The Russo-Persian wars of 1804 and 1826 resulted in the large irrevocable territorial losses of Iran in the Caucasus, comprising the whole Transcaucasia and Dagestan, which were part of the concept of Iran for three centuries, and thus substantial gains for the neighboring Russian Empire. As a result of the 19th century Russo-Persian wars, the Russians took over the Caucasus, and Iran irrevocably lost control over its integral territories in the region (comprising the modern-day Dagestan, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan), which got confirmed per the treaties of Golestan and Turkmenchay. The area to the north of the river Aras, among which the contemporary Republic of Azerbaijan, eastern Georgia, Dagestan, and Armenia, were Iranian territory until they were occupied by Russia in the course of the 19th century.
As Iran shrank, many Transcaucasian and North Caucasian Muslims moved towards Iran, until the result of the Caucasian War, when Armenians were encouraged to settle in the newly incorporated Russian territories.
Late modern period
Between 1872 and 1905, a series of protests took place in response to the sale of concessions to foreigners by Nasser od Din and Mozaffar od Din shahs of Qajar, and led to the Iranian Constitutional Revolution. The first Iranian Constitution and the first national parliament of Iran were founded in 1906, through the ongoing revolution. The Constitution included the official recognition of Iran's three religious minorities, namely Christians, Zoroastrians, and Jews, which has remained a basis in the legislation of Iran since then.
The struggle related to the constitutional movement continued until 1911, when Mohammad Ali Shah was defeated and forced to abdicate. On the pretext of restoring order, the Russians occupied Northern Iran in 1911, and maintained a military presence in the region for years to come. During World War I, the British occupied much of Western Iran, and fully withdrawn in 1921. The Persian Campaign commenced furthermore during World War I in Northwestern Iran after an Ottoman invasion, as part of the Middle Eastern Theatre of World War I. As a result of Ottoman hostilities across the border, a large amount of the Assyrians of Iran were massacred by the Ottoman armies, notably in and around Urmia. Apart from the rule of Aqa Mohammad Khan, the Qajar rule is characterized as a century of misrule.
In 1941, Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and established the Persian Corridor, a massive supply route that would last until the end of the ongoing war. The presence of so many foreign troops in the nation also culminated in the Soviet-backed establishment of two puppet regimes in the nation; the Azerbaijan People's Government, and the Republic of Mahabad. As the Soviet Union refused to relinquish the occupied Iranian territory, the Iran crisis of 1946 was followed, which particularly resulted in the dissolution of both puppet states, and the withdrawal of the Soviets.
In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected as the prime minister. He became enormously popular in Iran, after he nationalized Iran's petroleum industry and oil reserves. He was deposed in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état, an Anglo-American covert operation that marked the first time the US had overthrown a foreign government during the Cold War.
After the coup, the Shah became increasingly autocratic and sultanistic, and Iran entered a phase of decades long controversial close relations with the United States and some other foreign governments. While the Shah increasingly modernized Iran and claimed to retain it as a fully secular state, arbitrary arrests and torture by his secret police, the SAVAK, were used to crush all forms of political opposition.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah's White Revolution, and publicly denounced the government. Khomeini was arrested and imprisoned for 18 months. After his release in 1964, Khomeini publicly criticized the United States government. The Shah sent him into exile. He went first to Turkey, then to Iraq, and finally to France.
Due to the 1973 spike in oil prices, the economy of Iran was flooded with foreign currency, which caused inflation. By 1974, the economy of Iran was experiencing double digit inflation, and despite many large projects to modernize the country, corruption was rampant and caused large amounts of waste. By 1975 and 1976, an economic recession led to increased unemployment, especially among millions of youth who had migrated to the cities of Iran looking for construction jobs during the boom years of the early 1970s. By 1977, many of these people opposed the Shah's regime and began to organize and join the protests against it.
After the 1979 Revolution
The 1979 Revolution, later known as the Islamic Revolution, began in January 1978 with the first major demonstrations against the Shah. After a year of strikes and demonstrations paralyzing the country and its economy, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled the country and Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile to Tehran in February 1979, forming a new government. After holding a referendum, in April 1979, Iran officially became an Islamic Republic. A second referendum in December 1979 approved a theocratic constitution.
The immediate nationwide uprisings against the new regime began by the 1979 Kurdish rebellion with the Khuzestan uprisings, along with the uprisings in Sistan and Baluchestan Province and other areas. Over the next several years, these uprisings were subdued in a violent manner by the new Islamic government. The new government went about purging itself of the non-Islamist political opposition. Although both nationalists and Marxists had initially joined with Islamists to overthrow the Shah, tens of thousands were executed by the Islamic regime afterward.
On March 8, 1979, coinciding with the International Women's Day, Iranian women demonstrated against the perceived reductions to the status and rights of women, especially with regard to family law and the mandatory dress-codes. The Iranian Cultural Revolution began in 1980, and universities were closed by the theocratic regime.
On November 4, 1979, a group of the Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy and took the embassy with 52 US personnel and citizens hostage, after the US refused to return Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to Iran to face trial and execution. Attempts by the Jimmy Carter administration to negotiate for the release of the hostages, and a failed rescue attempt, helped force Carter out of office and brought Ronald Reagan to power. On Jimmy Carter's final day in office, the last hostages were finally set free as a result of the Algiers Accords.
On September 22, 1980, the Iraqi army invaded the Iranian Khuzestan, and the Iran–Iraq War began. Although the forces of Saddam Hussein made several early advances, by mid 1982, the Iranian forces successfully managed to drive the Iraqi army back into Iraq. In July 1982, with Iraq thrown on the defensive, Iran took the decision to invade Iraq and conducted countless offensives in a bid to conquer Iraqi territory and capture cities, such as Basra. The war continued until 1988, when the Iraqi army defeated the Iranian forces inside Iraq and pushed the remaining Iranian troops back across the border. Subsequently, Khomeini accepted a truce mediated by the UN. The total Iranian casualties in the war were estimated to be 123,220–160,000 KIA, 60,711 MIA, and 11,000-16,000 civilians killed.
Following the Iran–Iraq War, in 1989, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his administration concentrated on a pragmatic pro-business policy of rebuilding and strengthening the economy without making any dramatic break with the ideology of the revolution. In 1997, Rafsanjani was succeeded by the moderate reformist Mohammad Khatami, whose government attempted, unsuccessfully, to make the country more free and democratic.
The 2005 presidential election brought the conservative populist candidate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, into the power. During the 2009 Iranian presidential election, the Interior Ministry announced incumbent president Ahmadinejad had won 62.63% of the vote, while Mir-Hossein Mousavi had come in second place with 33.75%. Allegations of large irregularities and fraud provoked the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests, both within Iran and in major cites outside the country.
Hassan Rouhani was elected as President of Iran on June 15, 2013, defeating Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and four other candidates. The electoral victory of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has improved the relations of Iran with other countries.
Iran is the 18th largest country in the world, with an area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi). Its area roughly equals that of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany combined, or somewhat more than the US state of Alaska. Iran lies between latitudes 24° and 40° N, and longitudes 44° and 64° E. Its borders are with Azerbaijan (611 km (380 mi)) (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave (179 km (111 mi) )) and Armenia (35 km (22 mi)) to the north-west; the Caspian Sea to the north; Turkmenistan (992 km (616 mi)) to the north-east; Pakistan (909 km (565 mi)) and Afghanistan (936 km (582 mi)) to the east; Turkey (499 km (310 mi)) and Iraq (1,458 km (906 mi)) to the west; and finally the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south.
Iran consists of the Iranian Plateau with the exception of the coasts of the Caspian Sea and Khuzestan Province. It is one of the world's most mountainous countries, its landscape dominated by rugged mountain ranges that separate various basins or plateaux from one another. The populous western part is the most mountainous, with ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros and Alborz Mountains; the last contains Iran's highest point, Mount Damavand at 5,610 m (18,406 ft), which is also the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush.
The northern part of Iran is covered by dense rain forests called Shomal or the Jungles of Iran. The eastern part consists mostly of desert basins such as the Dasht-e Kavir, Iran's largest desert, in the north-central portion of the country, and the Dasht-e Lut, in the east, as well as some salt lakes. This is because the mountain ranges are too high for rain clouds to reach these regions.
The only large plains are found along the coast of the Caspian Sea and at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, where Iran borders the mouth of the Arvand river. Smaller, discontinuous plains are found along the remaining coast of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.
Iran's climate ranges from arid or semiarid, to subtropical along the Caspian coast and the northern forests. On the northern edge of the country (the Caspian coastal plain) temperatures rarely fall below freezing and the area remains humid for the rest of the year. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 29 °C (84.2 °F). Annual precipitation is 680 mm (26.8 in) in the eastern part of the plain and more than 1,700 mm (66.9 in) in the western part. United Nations Resident Coordinator for Iran Gary Lewis has said that "Water scarcity poses the most severe human security challenge in Iran today".
To the west, settlements in the Zagros basin experience lower temperatures, severe winters with below zero average daily temperatures and heavy snowfall. The eastern and central basins are arid, with less than 200 mm (7.9 in) of rain, and have occasional deserts. Average summer temperatures exceed 38 °C (100.4 °F). The coastal plains of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in southern Iran have mild winters, and very humid and hot summers. The annual precipitation ranges from 135 to 355 mm (5.3 to 14.0 in).
One of the most famous members of the Iranian wildlife is the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah, also known as the Iranian Cheetah, whose numbers were greatly reduced after the 1979 Revolution.
At least 74 species of Iranian wildlife are on the red list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a sign of serious threats against the country’s biodiversity. The Iranian Parliament has been showing disregard for wildlife by passing laws and regulations such as the act that lets the Ministry of Industries and Mines exploit mines without the involvement of the Department of Environment, and by approving large national development projects without demanding comprehensive study of their impact on wildlife habitats.
Regions, provinces and cities
Iran is divided into five regions with thirty one provinces (ostān), each governed by an appointed governor (ostāndār). The provinces are divided into counties (shahrestān), and subdivided into districts (bakhsh) and sub-districts (dehestān).
Iran has one of the highest urban growth rates in the world. From 1950 to 2002, the urban proportion of the population increased from 27% to 60%. The United Nations predicts that by 2030, 80% of the population will be urban.[not in citation given] Most internal migrants have settled near the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Ahvaz, and Qom. The listed populations are from the 2006/07 (1385 AP) census.[not in citation given] Tehran, with a population of 7,705,036, is the largest city in Iran and is the capital. Tehran, like many big cities, suffers from severe air pollution. It is the hub of the country's communication and transport network.
Mashhad, with a population of 2,410,800, is the second largest Iranian city and the centre of the Razavi Khorasan Province. Mashhad is one of the holiest Shia cities in the world as it is the site of the Imam Reza shrine. It is the centre of tourism in Iran, and between 15 and 20 million pilgrims go to the Imam Reza's shrine every year.
Another major Iranian city is Isfahan (population 1,583,609), which is the capital of Isfahan Province. The Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city contains a wide variety of Islamic architectural sites ranging from the 11th to the 19th century. The growth of the suburban area around the city has turned Isfahan into Iran's second most populous metropolitan area (3,430,353).
The fourth major city of Iran is Tabriz (population 1,378,935), the capital of the East Azerbaijan Province. It is also the second industrial city of Iran after Tehran. Tabriz had been the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s and one of its former capitals and residence of the crown prince under the Qajar Dynasty. The city has proven extremely influential in the country’s recent history.
The fifth major city is Karaj (population 1,377,450), located in Alborz Province and situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foot of the Alborz mountains; however, the city is increasingly becoming an extension of metropolitan Tehran.
The sixth major Iranian city is Shiraz (population 1,214,808); it is the capital of Fars Province. The Babylonian civilization to the west greatly influenced the area, which soon came to be known as Persis. The ancient Persians were present in the region from about the 9th century BC, and became rulers of a large empire under the Achaemenid Dynasty in the 6th century BC. The ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae, two of the four capitals of the Achaemenid Empire, are located in or near Shiraz. Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire and is situated 70 kilometres (43 mi) northeast of modern Shiraz. UNESCO declared the citadel of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Largest cities or towns in Iran
|2||Mashhad||Razavi Khorasan||3,001,184||12||Zahedan||Sistan and Baluchestan||587,730|
Government and politics
The political system of the Islamic Republic is based on the 1979 Constitution, and comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The Leader of the Revolution ("Supreme Leader") is responsible for delineation and supervision of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Supreme Leader is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations; and has sole power to declare war or peace. The heads of the judiciary, state radio and television networks, the commanders of the police and military forces and six of the twelve members of the Guardian Council are appointed by the Supreme Leader. The Assembly of Experts elects and dismisses the Supreme Leader on the basis of qualifications and popular esteem.
After the Supreme Leader, the Constitution defines the President of Iran as the highest state authority. The President is elected by universal suffrage for a term of four years and can only be re-elected for one term.[dubious ] Presidential candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council before running in order to ensure their allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic revolution.
The President is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and for the exercise of executive powers, except for matters directly related to the Supreme Leader, who has the final say in all matters. The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature. Eight Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of twenty-two ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature.
The legislature of Iran (known in English as the Islamic Consultative Assembly) is a unicameral body. The Parliament of Iran comprises 290 members elected for four-year terms. The parliament drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget. All parliament candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Guardian Council.
The Guardian Council comprises twelve jurists including six appointed by the Supreme Leader. The others are elected by the Iranian Parliament from among the jurists nominated by the Head of the Judiciary. The Council interprets the constitution and may veto Parliament. If a law is deemed incompatible with the constitution or Sharia (Islamic law), it is referred back to Parliament for revision. The Expediency Council has the authority to mediate disputes between Parliament and the Guardian Council, and serves as an advisory body to the Supreme Leader, making it one of the most powerful governing bodies in the country. Local city councils are elected by public vote to four-year terms in all cities and villages of Iran.
The Supreme Leader appoints the head of Iran's judiciary, who in turn appoints the head of the Supreme Court and the chief public prosecutor. There are several types of courts including public courts that deal with civil and criminal cases, and revolutionary courts which deal with certain categories of offenses, including crimes against national security. The decisions of the revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed. The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people. The Special Clerical Court functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader. The Court's rulings are final and cannot be appealed. The Assembly of Experts, which meets for one week annually, comprises 86 "virtuous and learned" clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms. As with the presidential and parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council determines candidates' eligibility. The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time. It has not challenged any of the Supreme Leader's decisions.
The state-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran handles telecommunications. The media of Iran is a mixture of private and state-owned, but books and movies must be approved by the The ministry of Ershaad before being released to the public. Iran originally received access to the internet in 1993, and it has become enormously popular among the Iranian youth.
Often, Iran's foreign relations since the time of the revolution have been portrayed as being based on two strategic principles: eliminating outside influences in the region and pursuing extensive diplomatic contacts with developing and non-aligned countries.
Since 2005, Iran's nuclear program has become the subject of contention with the international community following earlier quotes of Iranian leadership favoring the use of an atomic bomb against Iran's enemies and in particular Israel. Many countries have expressed concern that Iran's nuclear program could divert civilian nuclear technology into a weapons program. This has led the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran which had further isolated Iran politically and economically from the rest of the global community. In 2009, The US Director of National Intelligence said that Iran, if chosing to, would not be able to develop a nuclear weapon only by 2013 four years later.
As of 2009, Iran maintains diplomatic relations with 99 members of the United Nations, but not with the United States or Israel, a state which Iran has not recognized since the 1979 Revolution.
On July 14, 2015, Tehran and the P5+1 came to a historic agreement to end economic sanctions after demonstrating a peaceful nuclear research project that meets International Atomic Energy Agency standards.
Iran is also a member of dozens of international organizations including the G-15, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, IDA, IDB, IFC, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Interpol, OIC, OPEC, the United Nations, WHO, and currently has observer status at the World Trade Organization.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has two types of armed forces: the regular forces Islamic Republic of Iran Army, Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, Islamic Republic of Iran Navy and the Revolutionary Guards, totaling about 545,000 active troops. Iran also has around 350,000 Reserve Force totaling around 900,000 trained troops. Iran has a paramilitary, volunteer militia force within the IRGC, called the Basij, which includes about 90,000 full-time, active-duty uniformed members. Up to 11 million men and women are members of the Basij who could potentially be called up for service; GlobalSecurity.org estimates Iran could mobilize "up to one million men". This would be among the largest troop mobilizations in the world. In 2007, Iran's military spending represented 2.6% of the GDP or $102 per capita, the lowest figure of the Persian Gulf nations. Iran's military doctrine is based on deterrence. In 2014 arms spending the country spent $15 billion and was outspent by the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council by a factor of 13.
Roy Gutman, travelling in Iran and the region to cover the nuclear agreement, offers a sober assessment of the recent military activities in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon in support of militia groups especially Hezbollah with thousands of rockets and missiles.
Since the 1979 Revolution, to overcome foreign embargo, Iran has developed its own military industry, produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, guided missiles, submarines, military vessels, guided missile destroyer, radar systems, helicopters and fighter planes. In recent years, official announcements have highlighted the development of weapons such as the Hoot, Kowsar, Zelzal, Fateh-110, Shahab-3 and Sejjil missiles, and a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The Fajr-3 (MIRV) is currently Iran's most advanced ballistic missile, it is a liquid fuel missile with an undisclosed range which was developed and produced domestically.
Iran's economy is a mixture of central planning, state ownership of oil and other large enterprises, village agriculture, and small-scale private trading and service ventures. In 2014, GDP was $404.1 billion ($1.334 trillion at PPP), or $17,100 at PPP per capita. Iran is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank. In the early 21st century the service sector contributed the largest percentage of the GDP, followed by industry (mining and manufacturing) and agriculture. The Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for developing and maintaining the Iranian rial, which serves as the country's currency. The government doesn't recognize trade unions other than the Islamic Labour Councils, which are subject to the approval of employers and the security services. The minimum wage in June 2013 was 487 million rials a month ($134). Unemployment has remained above 10% since 1997, and the unemployment rate for women is almost double that of the men.
In 2006, about 45% of the government's budget came from oil and natural gas revenues, and 31% came from taxes and fees. As of 2007, Iran had earned $70 billion in foreign exchange reserves mostly (80%) from crude oil exports. Iranian budget deficits have been a chronic problem, mostly due to large-scale state subsidies, that include foodstuffs and especially gasoline, totaling more than $84 billion in 2008 for the energy sector alone. In 2010, the economic reform plan was approved by parliament to cut subsidies gradually and replace them with targeted social assistance. The objective is to move towards free market prices in a 5-year period and increase productivity and social justice.
The administration continues to follow the market reform plans of the previous one and indicated that it will diversify Iran's oil-reliant economy. Iran has also developed a biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceuticals industry. However, nationalized industries such as the bonyads have often been managed badly, making them ineffective and uncompetitive with years. Currently, the government is trying to privatize these industries, and, despite successes, there are still several problems to be overcome, such as the lagging corruption in the public sector and lack of competitiveness. In 2010, Iran was ranked 69, out of 139 nations, in the Global Competitiveness Report.
Iran has leading manufacturing industries in the fields of car-manufacture and transportation, construction materials, home appliances, food and agricultural goods, armaments, pharmaceuticals, information technology, power and petrochemicals in the Middle East. According to FAO, Iran has been a top five producer of the following agricultural products in the world in 2012: apricots, cherries, sour cherries, cucumbers and gherkins, dates, eggplants, figs, pistachios, quinces, walnuts, and watermelons.
Economic sanctions against Iran, such as the embargo against Iranian crude oil, have affected the economy. Sanctions have led to a steep fall in the value of the rial, and as of April 2013 one US dollar is worth 36,000 rial, compared with 16,000 in early 2012. Following a successful implementation of the 2015 nuclear and sanctions relief deal, the resulting benefits might not be distributed evenly across the Iranian economy as political elites such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have garnered more resources and economic interests.
Although tourism declined significantly during the war with Iraq, it has subsequently recovered. About 1,659,000 foreign tourists visited Iran in 2004 and 2.3 million in 2009 mostly from Asian countries, including the republics of Central Asia, while about 10% came from the European Union and North America.
The most popular tourist destinations are Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz. In the early 2000s the industry faced serious limitations in infrastructure, communications, industry standards and personnel training. The majority of the 300,000 tourist visas granted in 2003 were obtained by Asian Muslims, who presumably intended to visit important pilgrimage sites in Mashhad and Qom. Several organized tours from Germany, France and other European countries come to Iran annually to visit archaeological sites and monuments. In 2003 Iran ranked 68th in tourism revenues worldwide. According to UNESCO and the deputy head of research for Iran Travel and Tourism Organization (ITTO), Iran is rated among the "10 most touristic countries in the world". Domestic tourism in Iran is one of the largest in the world. Weak advertising, unstable regional conditions, a poor public image in some parts of the world, and absence of efficient planning schemes in the tourism sector have all hindered the growth of tourism.
Iran has the second largest proved gas reserves in the world after Russia, with 33.6 trillion cubic metres, and third largest natural gas production in the world after Indonesia, and Russia. It also ranks fourth in oil reserves with an estimated 153,600,000,000 barrels. It is OPEC's 2nd largest oil exporter and is an energy superpower. In 2005, Iran spent US$4 billion on fuel imports, because of contraband and inefficient domestic use. Oil industry output averaged 4 million barrels per day (640,000 m3/d) in 2005, compared with the peak of six million barrels per day reached in 1974. In the early years of the 2000s (decade), industry infrastructure was increasingly inefficient because of technological lags. Few exploratory wells were drilled in 2005.
In 2004, a large share of natural gas reserves in Iran were untapped. The addition of new hydroelectric stations and the streamlining of conventional coal and oil-fired stations increased installed capacity to 33,000 megawatts. Of that amount, about 75% was based on natural gas, 18% on oil, and 7% on hydroelectric power. In 2004, Iran opened its first wind-powered and geothermal plants, and the first solar thermal plant is to come online in 2009. Iran is the third country in the world to have developed GTL technology.
Demographic trends and intensified industrialization have caused electric power demand to grow by 8% per year. The government’s goal of 53,000 megawatts of installed capacity by 2010 is to be reached by bringing on line new gas-fired plants and by adding hydroelectric, and nuclear power generating capacity. Iran’s first nuclear power plant at Bushehr went online in 2011. It is the second Nuclear Power Plant that ever built in the Middle East after Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant in Armenia.
Education, science and technology
Education in Iran is highly centralized. K-12 education is supervised by the Ministry of Education, and higher education is under the supervision of the Ministry of Science and Technology. The adult literacy rate in 2008 was 85.0%, up from 36.5% in 1976.
The requirement to enter into higher education is to have a high school diploma and pass the national university entrance examination, Iranian University Entrance Exam (known as concour), which is the equivalent of the US SAT exams. Many students do a 1-2 year course of pre-university (piš-dānešgah), which is the equivalent of GCE A-levels and International Baccalaureate. The completion of the pre-university course earns students the Pre-University Certificate.
Higher education is sanctioned by different levels of diplomas. Kārdāni (associate degree; also known as fowq e diplom) is delivered after 2 years of higher education; kāršenāsi (bachelor's degree; also known as licāns) is delivered after 4 years of higher education; and kāršenāsi e aršad (master's degree) is delivered after 2 more years of study, after which another exam allows the candidate to pursue a doctoral program (PhD; known as doctorā).
According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in the country are the University of Tehran (468th worldwide), the Tehran University of Medical Sciences (612th) and Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (815th).
Iran has increased its publication output nearly tenfold from 1996 through 2004, and has been ranked first in terms of output growth rate, followed by China. According to SCImago, Iran could rank fourth in the world in terms of research output by 2018, if the current trend persists.
In 2009, a SUSE Linux-based HPC system made by the Aerospace Research Institute of Iran (ARI) was launched with 32 cores, and now runs 96 cores. Its performance was pegged at 192 GFLOPS. Sorena 2 Robot, which was designed by engineers at the University of Tehran, was unveiled in 2010. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has placed the name of Surena among the five prominent robots of the world after analyzing its performance.
In the biomedical sciences, Iran's Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics is a UNESCO chair in biology. In late 2006, Iranian scientists successfully cloned a sheep by somatic cell nuclear transfer, at the Royan Research Center in Tehran.
According to a study by David Morrison and Ali Khadem Hosseini (Harvard-MIT and Cambridge), stem cell research in Iran is amongst the top 10 in the world. Iran ranks 15th in the world in nanotechnologies.
Iran placed its domestically built satellite, Omid into orbit on the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, on 2 February 2009, through Safir rocket, becoming the ninth country in the world capable of both producing a satellite and sending it into space from a domestically made launcher.
Iranian scientists outside Iran have also made some major contributions to science. In 1960, Ali Javan co-invented the first gas laser, and fuzzy set theory was introduced by Lotfi Zadeh. Iranian cardiologist, Tofy Mussivand invented and developed the first artificial cardiac pump, the precursor of the artificial heart. Furthering research and treatment of diabetes, HbA1c was discovered by Samuel Rahbar. Iranian physics is especially strong in string theory, with many papers being published in Iran. Iranian-American string theorist Kamran Vafa proposed the Vafa-Witten theorem together with Edward Witten. In August 2014, Maryam Mirzakhani became the first-ever woman, as well as the first-ever Iranian, to receive the Fields Medal, the highest prize in mathematics.
|Source: United Nations Demographic Yearbook|
Iran's population grew rapidly during the latter half of the 20th century, increasing from about 19 million in 1956 to around 75 million by 2009. However, Iran's birth rate has dropped significantly in recent years, leading to a population growth rate—recorded from July 2012—of about 1.29 percent. Studies project that Iran's rate of growth will continue to slow until it stabilizes above 105 million by 2050.
Iran hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, with more than one million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2006, Iranian officials have been working with the UNHCR and Afghan officials for their repatriation. According to estimates, about five million Iranian citizens have emigrated to other countries, mostly since the 1979 Revolution.
According to the Iranian Constitution, the government is required to provide every citizen of the country with access to social security that covers retirement, unemployment, old age, disability, accidents, calamities, health and medical treatment and care services. This is covered by tax revenues and income derived from public contributions.
The majority of the population speaks the Persian language, which is also the official language of the country. Others include the rest of the Iranian languages within the greater Indo-European languages, and the languages of the other ethnicities in Iran.
In southwestern and southern Iran, the Luri and Lari languages are spoken. In northern Iran, mostly confined to Gilan and Mazandaran, the Gilaki and Mazandarani languages are widely spoken, which, depending on author, are classified as either a dialect of Persian or a different Iranian language. They both have affinities to neighbouring Caucasian languages. In Kurdistan Province and nearby areas, Kurdish is widely spoken. In Khuzestan, many distinct Persian dialects are spoken. Furthmore, in parts of Gilan, Talysh is widely spoken, which stretches up to neighbouring Azerbaijan.
Turkic languages and dialects, most importantly the Azerbaijani language which is by far the most spoken language in the country after the official language of Persian, are spoken in different areas in Iran, but is especially widely and dominantly spoken in Iranian Azerbaijan. Arabic is also spoken by the Arabs of Khuzestan, and the wider group of Iranian Arabs.
Notable minority languages in Iran include Armenian, Georgian, and Neo-Aramaic. Circassian was also once widely used by the large Circassian minority, but, due to assimilation over the many years, no sizable number of Circassians speak the language anymore.
Percentages of spoken language continue to be a point of debate, as many opt that they are politically motivated, most notably regarding the largest and second largest ethnicities in Iran; the Persians and Azerbaijanis. According the CIA World Factbook, the percentages are for native speakers; Persian 53%, Azerbaijani 16%, Kurdish 10%, Mazandarani and Gilaki 7%, Luri 7%, Arabic 2%, Turkmen 2%, Balochi 2%, and the remainder 2% Armenian, Georgian, Neo-Aramaic, and Circassian.
As with the spoken languages, the ethnic group composition also remains a point of debate, mainly regarding the largest and second largest ethnic groups, the Persians and Azerbaijanis, due to a lack of Iranian state censuses based on ethnicity. The CIA World Factbook has estimated that around 79% of the population of Iran are a diverse Indo-European ethno-linguistic group that comprise the speakers of the Iranian languages, with Persians (incl. Mazandaranis, and Gilakis) constituting 61% of the population, Kurds 10%, Lurs 6%, and Balochs 2%. Peoples of the other ethnicities in Iran make up the remaining 21%, with Azerbaijanis constituting 16%, Arabs 2%, Turkmens and Turkic tribes 2%, and others 1% (such as Armenians, Talysh, Georgians, Circassians, Assyrians).
The Library of Congress issued slightly different estimates: Persians 65% (incl. Mazandaranis, Gilakis and Talysh), Azerbaijanis 16%, Kurds 7%, Lurs 6%, Baluchi 2%; Turkic tribal groups such as Qashqai 1%, and Turkmens 1%; and non-Iranian, non-Turkic groups such as Armenians, Georgians, Assyrians, Circassians, and Arabs less than 3%. It determined that Persian is the first language of at least 65% of the country's population and is the second language for most of the remaining 35%.
Other non-governmental estimations regarding the groups other than the Persians and Azerbaijanis roughly congruate with the World Factbook and the Library of Congress. However, many scholarly as well as organisational estimations regarding the number of these two groups differ significantly from above mentioned numbers. According many of these, the number of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran comprises between 21.6-30% of the total population, with the majority holding it on 25%.cd Nevertheless, the largest population of Azerbaijanis in the world live in Iran, regardless of whether they compose 16% or 30% of the population.
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Historically, Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in Iran, particularly during the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanid empires. This changed after the fall of the Sassanid Empire by the Muslim Conquest of Iran, when Zoroastrianism was gradually replaced with Islam.
Today, the Twelver Shia branch of Islam is the official state religion, to which about 90% to 95% of Iranians officially are. About 4% to 8% of Iranians are Sunni Muslims, mainly Kurds and Balochs. The remaining 2% are non-Muslim religious minorities, including Christians, Jews, Bahais, Mandeans, Yezidis, Yarsanis, and Zoroastrians.
Zoroastrians are the oldest religious community of the nation, with a long history continuing up to the present day.
Judaism has a long history in Iran, dating back to the Achaemenid Conquest of Babylonia. Although many left in the wake of the establishment of the State of Israel and the 1979 Revolution, around 8,756 Jews remain in Iran, according to the latest census. Iran has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel.
Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and the Sunni branch of Islam are officially recognized by the government, and have reserved seats in the Iranian Parliament. But the Bahá'í Faith, which is said to be the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran, is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran since the 19th century. Since the 1979 Revolution, the persecution of Bahais has increased with executions, the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education and employment.
The earliest recorded cultures within the region of Iran date back to the Lower Paleolithic era.
Owing to its dominant geo-political position and culture in the world, Iran has directly influenced cultures as far away as Greece, Macedonia, and Italy to the West, Russia to the North, the Arabian Peninsula to the South, and South and East Asia to the East.
Iranian works of art show a great variety in style, in different regions and periods. The main connections between these works are iconographic motifs. Combination is another major element in the art of Iran, specifically the depictions of composite human and animal figures, which also refer to the mythology of Iran.
Iranian art encompasses many disciplines, including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking, and stonemasonry. The Median and Achaemenid empires left a significant classical art scene which remained as basic influences for the art of the later eras. Art of the Parthians was a mixture of Iranian and Hellenistic artworks, with their main motifs being scenes of royal hunting expeditions and investitures. The Sassanid art played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian medieval art, which carried forward to the Islamic world, and much of what later became known as Islamic learning, such as philology, literature, jurisprudence, philosophy, medicine, architecture, and science, were of Sassanid basis.
There is also a vibrant Iranian modern and contemporary art scene, with its genesis in the late 1940s. The 1949 Apadana Gallery of Tehran, which was operated by Mahmoud Javadi Pour and other colleagues, and the emergence of artists such as Marcos Grigorian in the 1950s, signaled a commitment to the creation of a form of modern art grounded in Iran.
Iranian carpet-weaving dates back to the Bronze Age, and is one of the most distinguished manifestations of the art of Iran. Iran is the world's largest producer and exporter of handmade carpets, producing three quarters of the world's total output and having a share of 30% of world's export markets.
Iran is also home to one of the largest jewel collections in the world.
Iranian architecture displays great variety, both structural and aesthetic, developing gradually and coherently out of earlier traditions and experience. The guiding motifs of Iranian architecture are unity, continuity, and cosmic symbolism.
Iranian literature is one of the world's oldest literatures, dating back to the poetry of Avesta and Zoroastrian literature.
Poetry is used in many Iranian classical works, whether in literature, science, or metaphysics. Persian language has been dubbed as a worthy language to serve as a conduit for poetry, and is considered as one of the four main bodies of world literature. Dialects of Persian are sporadically spoken throughout regions from China to Syria and Russia, though mainly in the Iranian Plateau.
Iran has a number of famous poets; most notably Rumi, Ferdowsi, Hafez, Saadi Shirazi, Khayyám Ney-Shapuri, and Nezami Ganjavi. Iranian literature inspired notable writers such as Goethe, Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, the chronology of the subject and science of philosophy starts with the Indo-Iranians, dating this event to 1500 BC. The Oxford dictionary also states, "Zarathushtra's philosophy entered to influence Western tradition through Judaism, and therefore on Middle Platonism."
While there are ancient relations between the Indian Vedas and the Iranian Avesta, the two main families of the Indo-Iranian philosophical traditions were characterized by fundamental differences, especially in their implications for the human being's position in society and their view of man's role in the universe.
The Cyrus cylinder, which is known as "the first charter of human rights," is often seen as a reflection of the questions and thoughts expressed by Zarathustra, and developed in Zoroastrian schools of the Achaemenid Era.
The earliest tenets of Zoroastrian schools are part of the extant scriptures of the Zoroastrian religion in Avestan language. Among them are treatises such as the Shikand-gumanic Vichar, Denkard, Zātspram, as well as older passages of Avesta, and the Gathas.
Iranian mythology consists of ancient Iranian folklore and stories, all involving extraordinary beings. They reflect attitudes towards the confrontation of good and evil, actions of the gods, and the exploits of heroes and fabulous creatures.
Myths play a crucial part in the culture of Iran, and understanding of them is increased when they are considered within the context of actual events in the history of Iran. The geography of Greater Iran, a vast area covering the Caucasus, Anatolia, Central Asia, and the present-day Iran, with its high mountain ranges, plays the main role in much of the Iranian mythology.
The main national annual of Iran is Nowruz, an ancient tradition celebrated on 21 March to mark the beginning of spring and the New Year of Iran. It is enjoyed by people with different religions, but is a holiday for Zoroastrians. It was registered on the list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and was described as the Persian New Year by UNESCO in 2009.
Other remained national annuals of Iran include:
- Čā'r Šanbe Suri: A prelude to Nowruz, in honor of Ātar (the Holy Fire), celebrated by fireworks and fire-jumping, on the last Wednesday before Nowruz
- Sizda' be Dar: Leaving the house to join the nature, on the thirteenth day of the New Year (April 2)
- Čelle ye Zemestān: Also known as Yaldā; the longest night of the year, celebrated on the eve of Winter Solstice, by reciting poetry and having the customary fruits which include watermelon, pomegranate, and mixed nuts
- Tirgān: A mid summer festival, in honor of Tishtrya, celebrated on Tir 13 (July 4), by splashing water, reciting poetry, and having traditional dishes such as šole-zard and spinach soup
- Mehrgān: An autumn festival, in honor of Mithra, celebrated on Mehr 16 (October 8), by family gathering and setting a table of sweets, flowers, and a mirror
- Sepand Ārmazgān: Dedicated to Ameša Spenta (the Holy Devotion); celebrated by giving presents to partners, on Esfand 15 (February 24)
Along with the national celebrations, annuals such as Ramezān, Eid e Fetr, and Ruz e Āšurā are marked by Muslims; Noel, Čelle ye Ruze, and Eid e Pāk are celebrated by Christians; and the festivals Purim, Eid e Fatir, and Tu Bišvāt are celebrated by Jewish people in Iran.
Iran is the apparent birthplace of the earliest complex instruments, as evidenced by the archaeological records found in Western Iran, dating back to the 3rd millennium BC. The Iranian use of both vertical and horizontal angular harps have been documented at the sites Madaktu and Kul-e Farah, with the largest collection of Elamite instruments documented at Kul-e Farah. Multiple depictions of horizontal harps were also sculpted in Assyrian palaces, dating back between 865 and 650 BC.
Xenophon's Cyropaedia refers to a great number of singing women at the court of the Achaemenid Iran. Athenaeus of Naucratis states that, by the time of the last Achaemenid king, Artashata (336–330 BC), Achaemenid singing girls were captured by the Macedonian general, Parmenion. Under the Parthian Empire, a type of epic music was taught to youth, depicting the national epics and myths which were later represented in the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi.
History of the Sassanid music is better documented than the earlier periods, and is specially more evident in the Zoroastrian contexts. By the time of Khosrow II, the Sassanid royal court was the host of prominent musicians, namely Ramtin, Bamshad, Nakisa, Azad, Sarkash, and Barbad.
The first national music society of the modern-day Iran was founded by Rouhollah Khaleghi in the 1940s, with the School of National Music established in 1949. Today, the main orchestra of Iran include the National Orchestra, the Nations Orchestra, and the Symphony Orchestra of Tehran.
Iranian pop music emerged by the Qajar Era. It was led to major developments in the 1950s, by the emergence of stars such as Viguen, who was referred to as the "king of Persian Pop and Jazz." The 1970s is known as a "Golden Age" for Iranian pop music, where a revolution was formed in the music industry of Iran, using indigenous instruments and forms and adding electric guitar. Hayedeh, Faramarz Aslani, Farhad Mehrad, Googoosh, and Ebi are among the leading artists of this period.
The emergence of genres such as modern rock in the 1970s and hip hop in the 1980s, which replaced the outdated musical styles among the youth, followed major movements and influences in the music of Iran.
Theater background of Iran dates back to antiquity. The earliest recorded representations of dancing figures within Iran were found in prehistoric sites such as Tepe Siyalk and Tepe Mūsīān. The oldest initiation of theater and phenomena of acting among the people of Iran can be traced in the epic ceremonial theaters, such as Soug e Sivash and Mogh Koshi (Megakhouni), and also dances and theater narrations of Iranian mythological tales reported by Herodotos and Xenophon.
There are several theatrical genres which emerged before the advent of cinema in Iran, including Xeyme Shab Bazi (Puppetry), Saye Bazi (Shadow play), Ru-howzi (Comical plays), and Tazieh (Sorrow plays). The opera Rostam o Sohrab, based on the epic of Rostam and Sohrab from Shahnameh, is an example of opera performances in the modern day Iran.
Cinema and animation
The earliest examples of visual representations in Iranian history are traced back to the bas-reliefs of Persepolis, c. 500 BC. Persepolis was the ritual center of the ancient kingdom of Achaemenids, and the figures at Persepolis remain bound by the rules of grammar and syntax of visual language. The Iranian visual arts reached a pinnacle by the Sassanid Era. A bas-relief from this period in Taq Bostan depicts a complex hunting scene. Similar works from the period have been found to articulate movements and actions in a highly sophisticated manner. It is even possible to see a progenitor of the cinema close-up in one of these works of art, which shows a wounded wild pig escaping from the hunting ground.
By the early 20th century, the five-year-old modern industry of cinema came to Iran. The first Iranian filmmaker was Mirza Ebrahim Khan (Akkas Bashi), the official photographer of Mozaffar od Din Shah of Qajar. He obtained a camera and filmed the Shah's visit to Europe.
In 1904, Mirza Ebrahim Khan (Sahhaf Bashi) opened the first movie theater in Tehran. After him, several others like Russi Khan, Ardeshir Khan, and Ali Vakili tried to establish new movie theaters in Tehran. Until the early 1930s, there were around 15 cinema theaters in Tehran and 11 in other provinces.
The 1960s was a significant decade for Iranian cinema, with 25 commercial films produced annually on average throughout the early 60s, increasing to 65 by the end of the decade. The majority of production focused on melodrama and thrillers. With the screening of the films Kaiser and The Cow, directed by Masoud Kimiai and Dariush Mehrjui respectively in 1969, alternative films established their status in the film industry. Attempts to organize a film festival that had begun in 1954 within the framework of the Golrizan Festival, bore fruits in the form of the Sepas Festival in 1969. The endeavors also resulted in the formation of the Tehran World Festival in 1973.
After the Revolution of 1979, as the new government imposed new laws and standards, a new age in Iranian cinema emerged, starting with Viva... by Khosrow Sinai and followed by many other directors, such as Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi. Kiarostami, an admired Iranian director, planted Iran firmly on the map of world cinema when he won the Palme d'Or for Taste of Cherry in 1997.
The continuous presence of Iranian films in prestigious international festivals, such as the Cannes Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival, and the Berlin Film Festival, attracted world attention to Iranian masterpieces. In 2006, six Iranian films, of six different styles, represented Iranian cinema at the Berlin Film Festival. Critics considered this a remarkable event in the history of Iranian cinema.
Asghar Farhadi, a well-known Iranian director, has received a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and was named as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world by Time Magazine in 2012.
The oldest records of animation in Iran date back to the late 3rd millennium BC. An earthen goblet discovered at the site of the 5,200-year-old Burnt City in southeastern Iran, depicts what could possibly be the world’s oldest example of animation. The artifact bears five sequential images depicting a Persian Ibex jumping up to eat the leaves of a tree.
The art of animation, as practiced in modern Iran, started in the 1950s. After four decades of Iranian animation production and three-decade experience of Kanoon Institute, the Tehran International Animation Festival (TIAF) was established in February 1999. Every two years, participants from more than 70 countries attend this event in Tehran, which holds Iran's biggest national animation market.
With two thirds of Iran's population under the age of 25, many sports are played in Iran, both traditional and modern.
Iran is the birthplace of polo, known as čowgān in Persian, and košti e pahlevāni, meaning the "heroic wrestling." Freestyle wrestling has been traditionally regarded as Iran's national sport, where the national team has been Olympic and world champion.
Volleyball has been Iran's second most popular sport. Men's national team ranked fourth in 2014 FIVB Volleyball World League, ranked sixth in 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship, and achieved the best result among the Asian national teams.
Iran is home to several unique skiing resorts. 13 ski resorts operate in Iran, the most famous being Tochal, Dizin, and Shemshak, which are within one to three hours traveling time of Tehran. Tochal resort is the world's fifth-highest ski resort (3,730 m or 12,238 ft at its highest station).
The cuisine of Iran is diverse, and has greatly inspired its neighbors. Each province of Iran features dishes, culinary traditions, and styles unique to their region.
The main Iranian cuisines feature combinations of rice with meat, chicken, or fish and some onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. Herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins.
Iranians usually eat plain yogurt with lunch and dinner; it is a staple of the diet in Iran. To achieve a balanced taste, characteristic flavourings such as saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes. Onions and garlic are normally used in the preparation of the accompanying course, but are also served separately during meals, either in raw or pickled form.
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I use the term Iran in an historical context[...]Persia would be used for the modern state, more or less equivalent to "western Iran". I use the term "Greater Iran" to mean what I suspect most Classicists and ancient historians really mean by their use of Persia – that which was within the political boundaries of States ruled by Iranians.
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<ref>tag; name "18mil" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
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- Rasmus Christian Elling,Minorities in Iran: Nationalism and Ethnicity after Khomeini , Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Excerpt: "The number of Azeris in Iran is heavily disputed. In 2005, Amanolahi estimated all Turkic-speaking communities in Iran to number no more than 9 million. CIA and Library of congress estimates range from 16 percent to 24 precent -- that is, 12-18 million people if we employ the latest total figure for Iran's population (77.8 million). Azeri ethnicsts, on the other hand, argue that overall number is much higher, even as much as 50 percent or more of the total population. Such inflated estimates may have influenced some Western scholars who suggest that up to 30 percent (that is, some 23 million today) Iranians are Azeris." 
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