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Iran, also known as Persia, and today officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a large country in the Middle East.

Historically, the Persian culture and identity has existed for thousands of years – with several empires stretching across the Middle East and Asia and parts of Europe.

In modern times, while the nation-state of Iran was being formed, the country’s politics was characterized by foreign intervention. Western powers like Russia and Great Britain had vested interests within its borders, and struggled to see their influence grow stronger.

Much of the 20th century was characterized by political instability and divisiveness, until Mohammed Mosaddegh was elected prime minister in 1951– an enormously popular politician in Iran at the time.

Many see Mosaddegh as a democracy advocate, and shortly after his election he began to nationalize Iran’s petroleum reserves – a move that angered the West.

Just two years after his election to prime minister he was deposed in an Anglo-American coup d’état. The monarchy system of a Shah was reinstated, and Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was appointed the new Shah of Iran.

The Shah’s rule was characterized by autocratic measures and policies, and increasingly close ties to Western powers, specifically the US. The Shah secularized Iran – many times with force – and his secret police saw to it that government opposition was punished.

In the 60’s, a popular religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah and was eventually deported because of it, after he spent 18 months in jail.

In the 1970’s, the Iranian economy suffered greatly due to the oil-crisis and massive opposition to the Shah grew stronger. Before the decade was over, the Shah was exiled due to massive protests against the regime, and Ayatollah Khomeini returned a hero.

With Khomeini as the supreme leader, the Islamic Republic of Iran was formed in 1979, and completely shifted Iran’s position regionally and globally.

Iran very quickly became an enemy of the West – specifically the US and Israel – and became an autocratic theocracy, though not so similar to the theocracies of he Gulf.

Much of the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s have been characterized by Iran’s nuclear program – which the West for a long time has tried to stifle and end. Heavy and devastating economic sanctions have been placed on Iran by the US, UN and EU over the years.

However, in 2015, a historic nuclear deal was signed by both Iran and the US, ushering in a new era in Iranian politics and history, slowly opening the country up to Western partnership.