He went on to launch a far-reaching series of reforms in 1963, which included industrial growth, infrastructure expansion, land reforms, and increased women’s rights. However, widespread dissatisfaction with the monarchy culminated in the Iranian Revolution, which established the current Islamic Republic in 1979. Iran was invaded by Iraq in 1980, leading to a bloody and protracted war that lasted for almost eight years, and ended in a stalemate with devastating losses for both sides.
Iran’s political system combines elements of a presidential democracy and an Islamic theocracy, with the ultimate authority vested in an autocratic “Supreme Leader“. The Iranian government is widely considered to be authoritarian, with significant constraints and abuses against human rights and civil liberties, including the violent suppression of mass protests, unfair elections, and unequal rights for women and children.
Iran is a founding member of the UN, ECO, OIC, and OPEC. It is a major regional and middle power, and its large reserves of fossil fuels—including the world’s largest natural gas supply and the third 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 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the third largest number in Asia and 10th largest in the world. Historically a multi-ethnic country, Iran remains a pluralistic society comprising numerous ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups, the largest being Persians, Azeris, Kurds, Mazandaranis and Lurs.
The earliest attested archaeological artifacts in Iran, like those excavated at Kashafrud and Ganj Par in northern Iran, confirm a human presence in Iran since the Lower Paleolithic. Iran’s Neanderthal artifacts from the Middle Paleolithic have been found mainly in the Zagros region, at sites such as Warwasi and Yafteh. From the 10th to the seventh millennium BC, early agricultural communities began to flourish in and around the Zagros region in western Iran, including Chogha Golan, Chogha Bonut, and Chogha Mish.
The occupation of grouped hamlets in the area of Susa, as determined by radiocarbon dating, ranges from 4395-3955 to 3680-3490 BC. There are dozens of prehistoric sites across the Iranian Plateau, pointing to the existence of ancient cultures and urban settlements in the fourth millennium BC. During the Bronze Age, the territory of present-day Iran was home to several civilizations, including Elam, Jiroft, and Zayanderud. Elam, the most prominent of these civilizations, developed in the southwest alongside those in Mesopotamia, and continued its existence until the emergence of the Iranian empires. The advent of writing in Elam was paralleled to Sumer, and the Elamite cuneiform was developed since the third millennium BC.
From the 34th to the 20th century BC, northwestern Iran was part of the Kura-Araxes culture, which stretched into the neighboring Caucasus and Anatolia. Since the earliest second millennium BC, Assyrians settled in swaths of western Iran and incorporated the region into their territories.
By the second millennium BC, the ancient Iranian peoples arrived in what is now Iran from the Eurasian Steppe, rivaling the native settlers of the region. As the Iranians dispersed into the wider area of Greater Iran and beyond, the boundaries of modern-day Iran were dominated by Median, Persian, and Parthian tribes.