The history of modern Iran began in 1925, when Reza Pahlavi proclaimed himself the Shah (king) of Persia. Under his powerful rule, the modernisation of the country was set in motion. When it became clear that the Shah had pro-German sympathies, he was replaced in 1941 by his son, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi. The new Shah became a staunch ally of the West and the US.
From the 1960s onwards, Muhammad Reza Shah led a strong personal regime, which was characterised by a series of political, economic and social reforms. However, the success of these reforms remained limited for broad sections of the population.
Khomeini comes to power
Growing opposition to the rule of Muhammad Reza Shah led to his fall and departure in early 1979. After a short transitional period, power passed to the Islamic cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, who shortly afterwards proclaimed the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Under Khomeini's leadership, a strong isolationist regime was established and the United States and Israel were declared enemies of the state. From 1980 to 1989, Iran was in a fierce war with neighbouring Iraq. This war, which claimed many victims, deeply affected Iranian society and economy.
After the/brazil death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1990, Iran gradually changed course. Under Khatami, who became president in 1997, Iran set a course for a more tolerant society, legal certainty for all and the building of a civil society.
The election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad as President in July 2005 marked the end of eight years of governmental responsibility of the reformists. Ahmadinejad owed his popularity to, among other things, his promise to prioritise the alleviation of social needs, the fight against poverty and discrimination and technological progress.
In December 2006, Iran held a controversial conference on the Holocaust.
In March 2008, Ahmadinejad paid an unexpected official visit to his former enemy Iraq. Conservatives gain two-thirds of the votes in parliamentary elections. In July 2008, Iran tested a long-range missile with which it claimed it could hit targets in Israel. In June 2009, elections were held and Ahmadinejad was declared the winner. This caused fierce protests as opponents led by Mousavi demanded a recount of the votes.
The influential council of guardians led by the cleric Khamenei rallies behind Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad began his second term as president in August 2009.
In May 2010, after mediation by Turkey and Brazil, Iran agreed to ship uranium to the West for enrichment. Western states reacted sceptically, because they thought Iran would continue enriching uranium. In July 2010, the EU and others announced tighter sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear programme.
Since August 2013, Hassan Rouhani is the 7th President of Iran. In November 2013, there are discussions in Geneva about Iran's nuclear programme. A compromise is reached and sanctions against Iran are eased. In June 2014, President Rouhani pledges support to Iraq in the fight against ISIS. In July 2014, the final round of negotiations on Iran's nuclear weapons programme begin in Vienna. In July 2015, the negotiations are successfully concluded. Iran limits its nuclear energy activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions. In the parliamentary elections of February and April 2016, the reformists do well. In May 2017, Rouhani is re-elected president and there are new attacks by IS. In December 2017 and January 2018, there are rare demonstrations due to the poor economic situation.
Ebrahim Raisa, a hardline cleric and ally of Khamenei, won the 2021 elections from a series of mediocre conservative candidates because reform advocates and prominent conservatives were not allowed to run.
His main task will be to rebuild the struggling economy - a task made more difficult by his hostility to the United States, which has imposed crippling sanctions on the country.
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country ProfilesLast updated October 2023
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