Iran also known as Persia, (officially the Islamic Republic of Iran) is a sovereign state in Western Asia, with over 79.92 million inhabitants (as of August 2017) and the world’s 18th most-populous country. Comprising area of 1,648,195 km2, it is the 2nd in the Middle East and the 17th largest country in the world.
Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia, the de facto independent Republic of Artsakh, the Republic of Azerbāijān, and Nakhichevan; to the north by 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. The country’s central location in Eurasia, Western Asia, and proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, led to geostrategic importance.
Tehran is the country’s capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center. Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BC. It was first unified by the Iranian Medes in the 7th century BC, and reached its greatest extent during the Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great in the sixth century BC, stretching from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, becoming a larger empire than previously ever existed in the world.
The Iranian realm fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, but reemerged shortly after as the Parthian Empire, followed by the Sasanian Empire, which became a leading world power for the next four centuries. Arab Muslims conquered the empire in the seventh century AD, ultimately leading to the displacement of the indigenous faiths of Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism with Islam.
Iran had major contributions to the Islamic Golden Age that followed, producing many influential figures in art and science. After two centuries, a period of various native Muslim dynasties began, which were later conquered by the Turks and the Mongols.
The rise of the Safavids in the 15th century led to the reestablishment of a unified Iranian state and national identity, which followed the country’s conversion to Shia Islam, marking a turning point in Iranian and Muslim history. By the 18th century, under Nader Shah, Iran briefly possessed what was arguably the most powerful empire at the time. The 19th century conflicts with the Russian Empire led to significant territorial loss.
Popular unrest culminated in the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, which established a constitutional monarchy and the first legislature. Following a coup instigated by the United Kingdom and the United States in 1953, Iran gradually became closely aligned with the West, and grew increasingly autocratic. Growing dissent against foreign influence and political repression led to the 1979 Revolution, which followed the establishment of an Islamic republic, a political system which includes elements of a parliamentary democracy vetted and supervised by “Supreme Leader”. During the 1980s, the country was engaged in a war with Iraq, which lasted for almost nine years and resulted in a high number of casualties and financial loss for both sides.
Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has been Iran's Supreme Leader since 1989. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1, was created on July 14, 2015, aimed to loosen the nuclear sanctions in exchange for Iran’s restriction in producing enriched uranium. Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, NAM, OIC, and OPEC and a major regional power with large reserves of fossil fuels – which include the world’s largest natural gas supply and the fourth-largest proven oil reserves– exert considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy.
The country’s rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the third-largest number in Asia and eleventh-largest in the world. Iran is a multicultural country comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, the largest being Persians (61%), Azeris (16%), Kurds (10%), and Lors (6%).
Iran Historical Timeline
8000 BC -- The Agricultural Revolution made possible permanent settlements and the creation of complex civilizations. The Iranian plateau became the cradle of one of the oldest civilizations in history.
5000 BC -- The Haji Firouz Tappeh Wine Jar, discovered in Iran, is the oldest archaeological finding of wine-making in the world.
3900 BC -- Sialk (near Kashan), the first city on the Iranian plateau, was built.
1500-800 BC -- The Persians and the Medes, two groups of Aryan nomads, migrated to the Iranian plateau from central Asia.
1000 BC -- The Prophet Zoroaster was one of the first prophets to introduce the concepts of: monotheism, duality of good and evil
Emerging of Achaemenian Dynasty
559-530 BC -- Cyrus the Great established the Persian Empire in 550 BC, the first world empire.
539 BC -- Babylonia surrendered peacefully to Cyrus the Great. Welcomed as a liberator
522-486 BC -- The reign of Darius the Great marked the zenith of the Persian Empire. Upholding the tradition established by Cyrus, Darius valued the rights of all people under his rule.
490-479 BC -- In their wars with Persia, the Greek city-states were never a threat to the Persian heartland. Persia did not achieve its property wars; it was obtained through diplomacy. The Persian influence over the two Greek city-states was such that the Persian King Artaxerxes II was asked to mediate between them, leading to the King's Peace of 387 BC.
550-334 BC -- The Persian Empire became the dominant world power for over two centuries. It made possible the first significant and continuous contact between East and West. It was the world's first religiously tolerant empire.
Alexander to Parthian Dynasty
334 BC -- Alexander Invaded Persia. After his victory over the Persian army, he ordered the execution of many Persians, allowed his troops to indulge themselves in plunder and rape and set fire to Persepolis.
323 BC -- Alexander died. Although a masterful general, he lacked administrative skills. Shortly after his death, his empire was divided among his contesting generals.
323-141 BC -- The Seleucid Dynasty was established by one of Alexander's generals.
247 BC-224 AD -- The Parthians, a tribal kingdom from northeastern Iran, gradually defeated the Greek Seleucids and consolidated their control over Persia. The name of the founder of the dynasty, Arsaces, became the title of all Parthian kings. Their victory over the Romans in 53 BC elevated the Parthians into a superpower of their era
224 AD-- Ardeshir I founded the Sasanian dynasty. The Sasanians revived Persian culture and Zoroastrianism and made a conscious effort to return to the Achaemenian norms. They sponsored trade both with their arch-enemy, the Romans/Byzantines, and the Chinese.
260 AD-- Shāopur I invaded the Roman Empire and took Emperor Valerian prisoner. He also established Jondi Shāopur, a major center of higher learning.
274 AD -- Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, tried to introduce a new universal world religion, combining elements of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Buddhism.
528 AD -- Mazdak advocated abolition of private property, the division of wealth, as well as nonviolence and vegetarianism. His ideas brought about a major class struggle between the peasants and the nobility.
531-579 AD -- The reign of Khosrow I (Anoushiravan) marked the height of the Sasanian dynasty. He promoted scholarship and sponsored the translation of Indian and Greek scientific and medical texts into Middle Persian or Pahlavi, Persia's native language.
570 AD -- The Prophet Mohammad was born.
608-622 AD -- The long war between the Sasanians and the Byzantines significantly weakened both sides.
622 AD -- Fearing persecution for his beliefs, the Prophet Mohammad migrated from Mecca to Medina. His migration or Hejrat marked the birth of Islamic civilization and the starting point of all Islamic calendars.
629-632 AD -- Two consecutive female monarchs ruled over the Sasanian Empire, Pouran-dokht and her sister Azarmi-dokht. Pouran-dokht signed a peace treaty with the Byzantines.
632 AD -- The Prophet Mohammad died. Subsequently, his revelations were gathered and compiled into the holy book of Islam - The Koran
642 AD -- After successfully defending itself against the Roman/Byzantine Empires for centuries, the Persian Empire was swiftly vanquished by nomadic tribesmen armed with a newly acquired Islamic faith. Islam's ideals of equality and unity appealed to many Persians, as they were in sharp contrast to the rigid and hierarchical social structure of the later Sasanian period.
661 AD -- Imam Ali, the Prophet Mohammad's son-in-law and the fourth and last of the "rightly guided caliphs," was assassinated, thus leading to the great schism in Islam between the Sunni and Shi'ite sects. Although Persia did not become a Shi'ite state for almost another nine centuries, this clash was pivotal in its history.
661-750 AD -- The Umayyad Caliphate emerged as the rulers of the Islamic world. Although they maintained the Sasanians' administrative practices, the Umayyads considered Islam as primarily an Arab religion and were wary of Persian culture. They tried to force the Arabic language upon the Persians, leading to the demise of the Middle Persian or Pahlavi alphabet in favor of the new Arabic/Persian alphabet in use to this day.
680 AD -- Imam Hussein, Imam Ali's son, was killed by Umayyads in Karbala (one of Shi'ism's most holy sites) for refusing to recognize the legitimacy of their right to rule.
696 AD -- Arabic became the official language of the Islamic world.
750 AD -- With Persian financing and support, the Abbasids ended Umayyad rule. Their victorious armies were led by a Persian general named Abu Muslim Khorasani. The Islamic capital was relocated from Damascus to Baghdad, a newly built city adjacent to the old Sasanian capital, Ctesiphon.
750-1258 AD -- The Abbasid Caliphate relied on Persian ministers and bureaucracy for many state functions. Persian customs began to take deep roots under the Abbasids. The offices of the vizier (minister) and the divan (or bureau for state revenue) were copied from the Sasanian model and later caliphs adopted the Persian courts' ceremonial procedures and the trappings of the Sasanian kings.
Persia's Cultural Golden Age
820-1220 AD -- Arab rule over Persia began to diminish as various local Persian monarchs rose to power: The Taherids (821-873), Saffaarids (867-903), Samanids (873-999), Ziyarids (928-1077) and Buyids (945-1055). They were followed by Turkic dynasties with Persian culture: The Ghaznavids (962-1186), Seljuqs (1038-1153) and Khwarazmis (1153-1220). Once again, Persia became a world center for art, literature and science. Key figures in nearly all fields of endeavor in the Islamic world.
840 AD -- Sibovayh, a Persian scholar, laid the foundation for the codification of Arabic grammar and wrote the first Arabic dictionary.
850 AD -- Kharazmi, a remarkable mathematician and astronomer, wrote precise astronomical tables and the first work of algebra, The Book of Integration & Equation. The word "algebra" is derived from this book's title and the word "algorithm" from his own name. He helped establish the concept of zero and perfect the decimal system. The culmination of his work, along with that of other Islamic scholars, produced the Arabic numerals - a modified version of which replaced the Roman numerals in the West and which is still in use to this day.
879 AD – Ya’qoub Leyth was the first Persian ruler to openly revolt against the Arabs. He brought much of Persia under his control and promoted the Persian language.
865-925 AD -- Raazi, one of the most accomplished physicians, chemists and philosophers of his era, invented the medical usage of alcohol and wrote a number of books on a variety of topics, especially medicine. One of his more famous treatises, On Small Pox and Measles, was translated into many European languages.
940 AD -- Roudaki crystallized the new Persian language and its lyrical poetry. He was the first major poet of the Persian language. His contribution was especially important since poetry was to become one of the main pillars of Persian culture and identity.
940-1020 AD -- Ferdowsi, Iran's national poet and possibly its greatest hero, completed the national Iranian epic, Shahnameh, The Book of Kings, in 1010. It took him 30 years and consisted of some 50,000 couplets. He was a genuine defender of Persian national identity and, while a devout Muslim, deeply resented the Arab influence. Shahnameh consists of mythical stories of pre-Islamic Persia. The book's chief epic hero is a noble knight named Rostam, who embodies values such as integrity, strength and chivalry.
980-1037 AD -- Ibn Sina (Avicenna), one of the most significant scientists and philosophers of the Islamic civilization, wrote over 200 books, including The Cannon of Medicine, an encyclopedia summarizing all the then known medical knowledge from across the world.
945-1055 AD -- The Buyids, from north-central Iran, defeated the Arab armies and captured Baghdad. Although they allowed the Caliph to retain his title, they reduced the role of the Caliph to that of a religious figurehead.
1092 AD -- Nezam al-Molk was the renowned prime minister of Malek Shah of the Seljuq dynasty. Under his guidance, Malek Shah controlled virtually the entire eastern segment of the Islamic world, from Syria to Afghanistan. Nezam al-Molk wrote the Siyasatnameh, The Book of Government and Politics.
1058-1111 AD -- Ghazali was recognized as the most prominent Muslim jurist and theologian of his time. He argued against a merely rational and logical interpretation of existence, in favor of a more mystic and spiritual understanding.
1048-1122 AD -- Omar Khayyam, a great mathematician, poet and astronomer, performed the mathematical calculations to reform the Persian calendar, one of the most accurate calendars in the world and still in use to this day. He helped build an important observatory in Isfahan and wrote his collection of quatrains, Rubaiyat.
1206 AD -- Gangis Khan united the Mongol clans and began his attempt at world conquest.
1220 AD -- Gangis Khan and his Mongol hordes attacked Persia with unparalleled brutality, bringing about one of the worst catastrophes in the history of mankind. In Persia's northeastern provinces, his descendants, especially Hulagu Khan, razed almost every major city, destroyed libraries and hospitals and slaughtered entire populations. The death toll estimates ranged in the millions.
1227 AD -- Gangis Khan died. His empire was divided among his sons.
1258-1353 AD -- The Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258, thus ending the Abbasid Caliphate. The Ilkhanid dynasty gained control of the segment of the Mongol Empire covering Persia.
1271 AD -- Marco Polo journeyed through Persia on his way to China. In his Book of Travels, he wrote about the Mongols' savagery: “How sad it is, the destruction, waste and death inflicted upon this once mighty, prosperous and beautiful Persia”
1207-1273 AD -- Rumi, the greatest mystical poet of the Persian language and the author of Mathnawi, elevated Sufism to unprecedented heights. Although a Persian, he lived in Anatolia (his parents had migrated in fear of the Mongols' brutality). His poetry and philosophy had a significant influence throughout the Islamic world.
1274 AD -- Nasir Al-Din Tousi, an astronomer and philosopher, built the Maraqeh observatory, the first observatory in the modern sense in the history of science. He developed the mathematical calculations showing the earth's revolution around the sun and its spherical shape and size.
1213-1292 AD -- Sa'di wrote two of the most significant Persian works, The Bostaan and The Golestan. His poems exercised wide influence in India, Central Asia and as far as the Muslims in China. His poems emphasized the interdependence of all mankind regardless of nationality, race or religion. He asked for the following inscription on his tomb: From the tomb of Sa'di, son of Shiraz - the perfume of love escapes - thou shall smell it still 1,000 years after his death.
1295 AD -- Qazan Khan became the first Mongol Ilkhanid leader to convert to Islam. After his conversion, the Mongols, like the Greek, Arab and Turkic invaders before them, became "Persianized." Qazan Khan's prime minister, Rashid ad-Din, was a Persian scholar who wrote one of the earliest works of universal history, Jame' Al-Tawarikh.
1320 AD -- Kamal Al-Din Farsi pioneered major advances in the field of optics with his theories on refraction and reflection.
1320-1390 AD -- Hafez, the greatest lyric poet of the Persian language, wrote his most famous work, The Divan. Hafez was a Sufi and his poetry is characterized by the sense of beauty, love of humanity and devotion to God.
1405 AD -- Timur (Tamerlane), a Turco-Mongol leader, conquered much of Persia and its surrounding areas. His conquests yet again consisted of unimaginable cruelty and devastation. Although brutal, he was also a patron of arts. He made Samarqand his capital and brought artists from all over Persia. 1429 AD -- Jamshid Kashani, a major mathematician, advanced number theory, invented the first calculating machine and participated in the astronomical activities at Samarqand.
1501-1524 AD -- Shah Ismail I united all of Persia under Iranian leadership after some nine centuries of foreign or fragmented rule. Being a Shi'ite, he declared Shi'ism as the state religion and converted virtually all of Persia and some surrounding areas under his control from Sunnism to Shi'ism.
1587-1629 AD -- The reign of Shah Abbas the Great marked the pinnacle of the Safavid dynasty. He developed a disciplined standing army and defeated the Ottomans. In 1598, he chose Isfahan as his capital.
1501-1722 AD -- The two contemporary Islamic rivals of the Safavids, the Ottomans in Anatolia and the Mughals in India, relied on Persian artisans and poets for much of their arts and literature. Persian was the language of choice in both of their courts.
1722 AD -- Mahmoud Khan, an Afghan chieftain and a vassal of the Safavids, attacked Persia and captured Isfahan with virtually no resistance, thus ending the Safavid dynasty.
1729-1747 AD -- Nader Shah, an officer of the Safavids, was able to expel the Afghans and reunite the country. He was a brilliant military strategist, defeating the Ottomans, Russians, Indians and various local tribes.
1747-1779 AD -- Karim Khan Zand gained control of central and southern parts of Iran. He was a compassionate ruler who refused to assume the title of Shah and referred to himself as the Representative of the People.
1795 AD -- Although the Qajars succeeded in reuniting the country, they were generally weak and corrupt rulers. The economic and military gap between Iran and the West widened considerably under their reign - especially in light of the Industrial Revolution that was taking place in the West. However, the Qajar period also enjoyed a high degree of artistic excellence, producing some of Iran's finest paintings, tileworks and architectural monuments.
1813 & 1828 AD -- European imperialism resulted in English and Russian penetration in Iranian affairs. The Qajars lost the Caucasus (present day Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) to the Russians in two separate treaties: The Golestan in 1813 and the Torkmanchay in 1828. As a result of the 1828 treaty, the Qajars were forced to enact the "Capitulation" law, exempting all foreign citizens from Iranian jurisdiction. This law deeply humiliated the Iranian people.
1851-1906 AD -- The Qajars lost central Asian provinces to the Russians and were forced to give up all claims on Afghanistan to the British.
1906 AD -- Discontent with Qajar corruption and mismanagement led to the Constitutional Revolution and the establishment of Iran's first parliament or Majles. The constitutional aspirations for a limited monarchy were never to be fully realized. Although Iran never became an actual colony of imperial powers.
1907 AD - Iran was divided into two spheres of influence. The north was controlled by Russia and the south and the east by Britain. By the end of WWI, Iran was plunged into a state of political, social and economic chaos.
1921 -- Reza Khan, an officer in the army, staged a coup. Initially the minister of war and then the prime minister, in 1925 Reza Khan decided to become the Shah himself.
1925-1941 AD -- Reza Shah Pahlavi's first priority was to strengthen the authority of the central government by creating a disciplined standing army and restraining the autonomy of the tribal chiefs. Politically, however, Reza Shah forcibly abolished the wearing of the veil, took away the effective power of the Majles and did not permit any forms of free speech. With the outbreak of WW II, Reza Shah, wanting to remain neutral, refused to side with the Allies.
1941-1944 AD -- In need of the Trans-Iranian railway to supply the Soviets with wartime materials, the Allies invaded and occupied Iran for the duration of the war. Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in favor of his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and died in South Africa in exile in 1944.
1946 AD -- Under American pressure, the Soviet Union was forced to pull out of Iran's northwestern province. It was the first and only time that Stalin gave back a WWII occupied territory.
1951-1952 AD -- Iran's Majles passed a law sponsored by the nationalistic (soon to be prime minister) Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq to nationalize Iran's oil from British control.
1953 AD - Citing the threat of a communist takeover, British Intelligence and the CIA sponsored a coup to topple Dr. Mosaddeq's government. In the midst of the coup, the young Shah, having thought the plan had failed, left the country. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Mosaddeq’s government was overthrown and the Shah was put back in power.
1962-1963 AD -- The Shah introduced his White Revolution. It consisted of major land reform, workers' rights and women's suffrage, among other initiatives. His reforms did not develop as planned due to poor execution.
1963-1973 AD -- Iran experienced rapid economic growth and prosperity coupled with a relatively stable political climate.
1973 AD-- The oil embargo quadrupled Iran's oil revenue to $20 billion a year. This new wealth accelerated the Shah's timetable to make Iran "catch up" with the West. The Shah's determination to modernize Iran virtually overnight and at any cost led to cultural shock, alienation of the masses, inflation, corruption, economic bottlenecks, massive urbanization, rising expectations and increasing authoritarianism in dealing with these social, economic and political problems.
Islamic Republic of Iran
1979 AD - By the late 1970s, the Shah's opponents, of all political affiliations, united with Ayatollah Khomeini. The Shah was overthrown in 1979 by the Islamic Revolution and died in Egypt a year later. After 2,500 years of monarchy, Iran's government was changed to a theocratic republic, The Islamic Republic of Iran.
1980 AD – in September Iraq invades Iran after years of disagreements over territory, most notably the Shatt al Arab waterway. When Iraqi President Saddam Hussein announces his intention to reclaim the Shatt al Arab, an eight-year war breaks out.
1988 AD - In July an American navy ship, the USS Vincennes, shoots down an Iranian civilian plane, killing all 290 passengers and the crew. The United States later apologizes and agrees to financial compensation for the victims’ families, saying the civilian plane was mistaken for an attacking military jet.
1988 AD - In August Iran accepts United Nations Security Council Resolution 598, leading to a cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq War.
1989 – In June Ayatollah Khomeini passed away. An elected body of senior clerics — the Assembly of Experts — chooses the outgoing president of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to succeed Imam Khomeini as the national religious leader.
1989 - In August Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the speaker of the National Assembly, becomes president. Rafsanjani was an influential member of the Council of Revolution of Iran in the Islamic Republic’s early days.
1995 - The United States places oil and trade sanctions on Iran, accusing the country of sponsoring terrorism, committing human rights abuses and seeking to sabotage the Arab-Israeli peace process.
1997 - (Ali) Mohammad Khatami-Ardakani is elected to the presidency in a landslide victory amidst his pledges of political and social reforms as well as economic revitalization.
2003 - In December 40,000 people are killed in an earthquake in south-east Iran; the city of Bam is devastated.
2003 - The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran admits to plutonium production, but the agency says there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Iran agrees to more rigorous U.N. inspections of nuclear facilities.
2005 - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the mayor of Tehran, who campaigned as a champion of the poor and pledged to return to the values of the revolution of 1979, defeats one of Iran’s elder statesmen in presidential elections.
2013 – In June reformist-backed cleric Hassan Rouhani wins presidential election, gaining just over 50% of the vote.
2013 – In September president Rouhani tells US broadcaster NBC that Iran will never build nuclear weapons, and repeats offer of "time-bound and results-oriented" talks on the nuclear question in his address to the UN General Assembly.
2014 – In January world powers and Iran begin implementing a deal on Iran's nuclear program following intense talks in Geneva.
2015 – In July after years of negotiations, world powers reach deal with Iran on limiting Iranian nuclear activity in return for lifting of international economic sanctions. The deal reportedly gives UN nuclear inspectors extensive but not automatic access to Iranian sites.
2016 – Iran tourism industry highly flourished and experienced its new era by attracting about more than 5 million tourists I the year promised a great future to the country.
2017 – In May Hassan Rouhani re-elected as president.