Pahlevi or Pahlavi is the name of the monarchical dynasty of 20th century
comprising two Shahs or rulrs, Reza Shah Pahlevi and his son Mohhamed,
Pahlavi was also the language of ancient
Reza Shah - A coup d'état in February 1921speeded
Reza Khan's rise to power.
Reza Khan became Shah in 1925. Reza Shah's government transformed
Iran in many positive ways, but his dictatorial
politics caused unrest and hate, and his foreign policy failed to keep
Iran independent, and managed at the same time to
alienate both the Soviets and the British.
Shah created the Iranian state. The previous dynasties such as the
dynasty that the Pahlevis replaced were like European medieval kingdoms, in that
they were collections of duchies with little central state bureaucracy and no
means of collecting taxes. Not surprisingly, previous rulers were unable to
build a modern state apparatus or to pay for it.
Reza Shah had ambitious plans for
the modernization of
Iran, including large-scale
industries, major infrastructure projects such as railroads, a national public education system, a reformed judiciary,
and improving health care. He wanted a strong, centralized government managed by educated personnel to carry out his
plans. He sent hundreds of Iranians including his son to Europe for training. Reza Shah's numerous development
projects transformed Iran into an industrial, urbanized country. Public education progressed rapidly, and new social
classes-a professional middle class and an industrial working class emerged. In 1935, the name of the
country was changed from
Reza Shah tried to avoid involvement with Britain and the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics. Though many of his development projects required foreign technical expertise, he avoided
awarding contracts to British and Soviet companies. Britain, owned of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and through
it, controlled all of Iran's oil resources, but Reza Shah shunned Britain and got technical assistance from
Germany, France, Italy and other European countries. In 1939, when WW II broke out, Reza Shah proclaimed Iranian
neutrality. However, Britain insisted that German engineers and technicians in Iran were spies and demanded that all
German citizens must be expelled. Reza Shah refused, claiming this would adversely impact his development projects. The
suspicion was not absent that in fact the Shah had concluded a secret agreement with Nazi Germany.
After Britain and the Soviet Union became allies in WW II,. they turned their attention to Iran. Both countries eyed the
newly opened Trans-Iranian Railroad as an attractive route to transport from Persian Gulf to the Soviet region. In
August 1941, because of Iranian refusal to expel German nationals, Britain and the USSR invaded Iran. They arrested and
exiled Reza Shah, and took control of Iranian communications and railroad. In 1942 the United States, sent a
military force to
Iran& to help maintain and operate sections of the railroad.
Mohamed Shah - The British
and Soviet authorities constrained constitutional government and permitted
Reza Shah's son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, to succeed to the throne on
September 16, 1941.
In January 1942 Britain and Russia signed an agreement with Iran to respect Iran's independence and to withdraw their
troops within six months after the end of the war. In 1943 Tehran Conference U.S. reaffirmed this commitment. In 1945,
the USSR refused to announce a timetable to leave Iran's northwestern provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan,
where Soviet supported autonomy movements had developed. The USSR withdrew its troops in May 1946; this episode was one
of the harbingers of the emerging Cold War.
Iran's political system began to mature. Political parties were organized, and the 1944 Majlis election were the first
genuinely competitive elections in over 20 years. Foreign influence and interference remained very a sensitive issue for
all parties. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), owned by the British government, continued to extract and market
Iranian oil. At the end of the war, Iranians began to demand nationalization of the oil industry, a demand that became
the centerpiece of Iranian nationalism.
Despite his vow to act as a constitutional monarch who would defer to the
power of the parliamentary government, Mohammad Reza Shah increasingly involved himself in governmental affairs and
opposed or thwarted strong prime ministers. Prone to indecision, however, Mohammad Reza relied more on manipulation than
on leadership. He concentrated on reviving the army and ensuring that it would remain under royal control as the
main power base of the Monarchy. In 1949 the Tudeh communist party was banned after an assassination attempt on the
Shah, and the Shah's powers were expanded.
Rise and Fall of Mosaddeq -
In 1951, the Iranian Parliament voted to nationalize the oil industry, then controlled by Britain. Legislators
backing the law elected its leading advocate, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, as prime minister following the assassination of
his predecessor. Britain responded with threats and sanctions. However, Britain could not persuade the USA, under
the Truman administration to take any action at the time. Mosaddeq was an aging and eccentric academic, immensely
popular because of his stands for the common people. He was a nationalist, and not a communist, though the Tudeh
(communist) party supported him for a time. Nonetheless, the British and US governments were eventually able to persuade
themselves that Mosaddeg was about to align Iran with the USSR.
Dr. Mosaddeg took very inflexible positions, and was unable to
compromise with Britain, which won the support of the major oil companies in imposing an effective global boycott on
Dr. Mosaddeq became an anti-imperialist hero to the developing world. His eccentricities, which became his trademark,
included conducting business in bed dressed in pajamas, weeping publicly and frequent complaints about poor health.
Raised by a wave of popularity, Mosaddeq showed signs of demagoguery and dictatorial government. When the Shah
refused his demand for control of the army forces in 1952, Dr. Mosaddeq resigned. He was reinstated in the face of
popular riots as he very probably knew he would be. Next he conducted a national referendum to dissolve parliament.
By 1953, General Eisenhower had become president of the US. Anti-communist
hysteria was reaching its peak. An Iranian general offered to help in overthrow Mosaddeq, and the British were able to
persuade the American CIA to go ahead with the coup in August. With very scant resources and a shoe-string operational
plan, the CIA set out to remove Mosaddeq. The plan almost failed, and the Shah, never very resolute, had fled to Baghdad
and had to be enticed to continue playing his part from there. The army was loyal to the Shah and Mosaddeq was
overthrown and arrested. This coup earned the USA and Britain the lasting hatred of large sectors of Iranian public
opinion, uniting communists, nationalists and Shi'ite clericalists behind enmity to foreign meddling. Mosaddeq became a
folk hero of Iranian nationalism.
In the context of regional turmoil and the Cold War, the Shah established
himself as an indispensable ally of the West. In the Middle East,
Iran stood out as one of the few friends of
friendship that allegedly extended to Israeli help in running the SAVAK, the hated Iranian secret service.
Domestically, he advocated reform policies, culminating in the 1963 program known as the White Revolution, which
included land reform, the extension of voting rights to women, and the elimination of illiteracy.
These measures and the increasing
arbitrariness of the Shah's rule provoked both religious leaders who feared losing their traditional authority and
intellectuals seeking democratic reforms. These opponents criticized the Shah for violation of the constitution, which
placed limits on royal power and provided for a representative government, and for subservience to the United States.
The Shah saw himself as heir to the kings of ancient Iran. In 1967 he staged an elaborate coronation
ceremony, styling himself "Shah en Shah" - King of Kings.
Downfall of the Shah - In 1971
the Shah held an extravagant celebration of 2,500 years of
Persian monarchy. In 1976 he replaced the Islamic calendar with an "imperial" calendar, which began with the foundation
of the Persian empire around 500 BC. These actions were clearly aimed at sidelining the Islamic religion, and
excited the opposition of Muslim groups, which rallied around the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Shah suppressed and marginalized opponents with the help of Iran's
security and intelligence organization, the Savak, using arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, exile and torture, and exciting
profound and widespread discontent. Islamic leaders, particularly the exiled cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, channeled
this discontent into a populist Islamist ideology.
Ayatollah Khomeini had been exiled in 1964 and had been living Najaf Iraq
since 1965, and from 1978 in France. In Najaf, Khomeini expounded his ideology
of absolutist theocratic rule, Velayat e Faqih, led by a supreme leader, an
authority worthy of emulation, the
Marj al Taqlid. This ideology was spread through books and cassettes
smuggled into Iran. However, beginning about 1978, Khomeini began publicizing
more democratic views and pretended that he envisioned democratic rule in Iran
and that he would not be a leader of the government. Riots erupted in Iran,
ignited by various real or manufactured pretexts.
Suffering ill health, the Shah left Iran on January 16 1979. He announced that he was
leaving for an eighteen month leave of absence. He had appointed Shapour Bakhtiar as Prime Minister. Shapour
Bakhtiar was unable to keep order with the help of Supreme Army Councils. Inexplicably, Bakhtiar not only allowed the
Ayatollah Khomeini to return to Iran, but publicly invited him to return.
October 30, 2010
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
History of modern Iran