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During the early 20th century, oil was discovered in Khuzestan Province by the British, which prompted an all too eager renewed interest in Persia, and both the United Kingdom and Russia scrambled to gain control of the area.

The Great Game, as it had become known, divided Persia into several stretches of influence without regard to their national sovereignty.

Iran was able to remain neutral through World War I, despite the occupation of British and Russian forces.

In 1925, the Pahlavi dynasty was established, and rose to power due to the instability of the Qajar government. Reza Shah Pahlavi ruled Iran until September 16, 1941, and successfully established an authoritarian government that valued nationalism, militarism, secularism and anti-communism combined with strict censorship and state propaganda.

During World War II, Reza Shah's son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, took over control of Iran, and there was a belief that the country would become a constitutional monarchy due to the fact that Mohammed was very hands-off with his role as leader in the beginning.

However, after Operation Ajax, which was a formal coup d'etat to overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, brought on by the United Kingdom and the United States, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's rule became progressively autocratic.

Demonstrations against the Shah began in 1978, and by January 1979, Iran became an Islamic republic after the ruling Shah was forced into political exile.

Iran was then thrust into the worldwide spotlight in November 1979, when Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran, and struggled through a bloody and disastrous (no win) eight-year-war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Following the war, Iran's new government concentrated on rebuilding and strengthening the economy. And after the American invasion of Iraq in 2006 to overthrow Sadam Hussein, Iran's position within the region intensified.

The foundations of the Islamic Republic were challenged in 2009 during the Iranian presidential elections, as it was announced that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election; however several western countries, the European Union and Iranian citizens expressed concerns of irregularities during the vote.

Following the complaints, the Guardian Council announced a recount, and concluded that there were no discrepancies.

Literally surrounded by the most tumultuous area on the planet, the rigidity of its own long-standing political and social policies have come under attack in recent years, and there's now a powerful and growing internal pressure for reform.

The country is rich in natural gas and petroleum resources, and when that economic power is combined with its outwardly-friendly and hard working people, a troubled past certainly points to a bright future.

And as for tourism, international travelers rave about Iran's natural beauty, as well as its ancient ruins, mosques and first-class museums.

Iran's Information

Flag of Iran
Land Area 1,531,595 km2
Water Area 116,600 km2
Total Area 1,648,195km2 (#17)
Population 82,801,633 (#16)
Population Density 54.06/km2
Government Type Theocratic Republic
GDP (PPP) $1,460.00 Billion
GDP Per Capita $18,100
Currency Rial (IRR)
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This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.