Iran is located in the Middle East, in southwestern Asia. It is bordered by the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf of Oman; Turkey and Iraq to the west, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia to the north, and Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east.
A brief history of Iran
Throughout much of early history, the land known today as Iran was known as the Persian Empire. The first great dynasty in Iran was the Achaemenid which ruled from 550 to 330 BC. It was founded by Cyrus the Great. This period was followed by the conquest of Alexander the Great from Greece and the Hellenistic period. In the wake of Alexander’s conquests, the Parthian dynasty ruled for nearly 500 years followed by the Sassanian dynasty until 661 AD.
In the 7th century, the Arabs conquered Iran and introduced the people to Islam. More invasions came, first from the Turks and later from the Mongols. Starting in the early 1500s local dynasties once again took power including the Afsharid, the Zand, the Qajar, and the Pahlavi.
In 1979 the Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown by revolution. The Shah (king) fled the country and Islamic religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini became leader of the theocratic republic. Iran’s government has since been guided by Islamic principles.
- 2700 – The Elamite civilization emerges in western Iran.
- 1500 – The Anshanite dynasties begin to rule over Elam.
- 1100 – The Elamite empire reaches the peak of its power.
- 678 – The Medes of northern Iran rise to power with the fall of the Assyrian Empire and form the Median Empire.
- 550 – Cyrus the Great and the Achaemenid Empire conquers much of the region forming the Persian Empire.
- 330 – Alexander the Great leads the Greeks to victory over the Persians.
- 312 – The Seleucid Empire is formed by one of Alexander’s generals. It will rule much of the region until overthrown by the Roman Empire.
- 140 – The Parthian Empire takes control and rules Iran and the surrounding region.
- 224 – The Sassanid Empire is founded by Ardashir I. It will rule for over 400 years and is the last of the Iranian Empires.
- 421 – Bahram V becomes king. He will later become the subject of many tales and legends.
- 661 – The Arabs invade Iran and conquer the Sassanid Empire. They bring the Islamic religion and Islam rule to the region.
- 819 – The Samanid Empire rules the region. Islam is still the state religion, but the Persian culture is revived.
- 977 – The Ghaznavid dynasty takes over much of the region.
- 1037 – The rise of the Seljuq Empire founded by Tughril Beg.
- 1220 – The Mongols invade Iran after Mongol emissaries are killed. They destroy many cities, killed much of the population, and caused devastation across Iran.
- 1350 – The Black Death hits Iran killing around 30% of the population.
- 1381 – Timur invades and conquers Iran.
- 1502 – The Safavid Empire is established by Shah Ismail.
- 1587 – Shah Abbas I the Great becomes king of the Safavid Empire. The empire reaches its peak under his rule becoming a major world power.
- 1639 – The Safavid Empire agrees to a peace agreement with the Ottoman Empire called the Treaty of Zuhab.
- 1650s – Iran begins to lose territories to European countries such as Great Britain, Russia, and France.
- 1736 – A weakened Safavid Empire is overthrown by Nadir Shah.
- 1796 – The Qajar dynasty is established after a civil war.
- 1813 – The Russians defeat the Persians in the Russo-Persian War.
- 1870 – A great famine kills over a million people in Persia.
- 1905 – The Persian Constitutional Revolution occurs. A parliamentary government is created. The parliament is called the Majlis.
- 1908 – Oil is discovered.
- 1914 – World War I begins. Iran remains neutral but is occupied by various forces including Great Britain, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire.
- 1919 – After World War I, Great Britain tries unsuccessfully to establish a protectorate in Iran.
- 1921 – Reza Khan captures Tehran and seizes power. He will be made prime minister in 1923 and Shah of Iran in 1925. He brings modernization to Iran, but is resented by devout Muslims.
- 1935 – The official name for the country is changed to Iran from Persia.
- 1939 – World War II begins. Iran remains neutral, but is friendly towards the Axis powers.
- 1941 – Soviet Union and British forces invade Iran in order to insure an oil supply for the Allies.
- 1941 – A new Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, is put into power.
- 1951 – The Iranian parliament nationalizes the oil industry.
- 1979 – The Shah is forced into exile and Islamic leader Ayatollah Khomeini takes over. The Islamic Republic of Iran is declared.
- 1979 – The Iran Hostage Crisis begins when fifty-two Americans are held hostage by revolutionaries in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
- 1980 – The Shah dies of cancer.
- 1980 – The Iran-Iraq war begins.
- 1981 – The U.S. hostages are released after 444 days.
- 1988 – A ceasefire is agreed to with Iraq.
- 2002 – Iran begins construction on its first nuclear reactor.
- 2005 – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad becomes president.
The political structure of the Iran comprises of the supreme leader, the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, and other institutions such as the Assembly of Experts, the Expediency Discernment Council, and the City and Village Councils of Iran. The country follows a constitution that was ratified by referendum in 1979, and later amended in 1989. The Iranian constitution outlines and defines the political, economic, and social structure of the country. The supreme leader of the Islamic Republic is the ruler and the Commander-in-Chief of the country.
Religion in Iran
Muslims constitute a majority in the Islamic Republic of Iran while Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews and Bahá’ís make up the non-Muslim minority of the nation.
Iran is a predominantly Shi’ite country where Sunnis and Sufis are minority Muslim communities.
The Shi’ite branch of Islam has been further divided in to several sub-sects and majority of Iranian Muslims are followers of Twelve Imams.
Iran is a vast country, and has different types of climate: mild and quite wet on the coast of the Caspian Sea, continental and arid in the plateau, cold in high mountains, desert and hot on the southern coast and in the southeast.
Generally speaking, Iran is an arid country; however, in the west and the north, the rains are a bit more abundant than in the east and the south. The only rainy area is the Caspian Sea coast. Summer is sunny everywhere (except on the shores of the Caspian Sea).