Islamic Republic of Iran
Mottoاستقلال. آزادی. جمهوری اسلامی
Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic
National Anthem of Iran(official)
Ey Iran(De facto)
(Persian: Oh Iran)
(and largest city)
35°41′N 51°25′E / 35.683°N 51.417°E / 35.683; 51.417
Official language(s) Persian
Other languages Armenian, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Azeri, Kurdish, Luri, Balochi, Arabic, Turkmen
Demonym Iranian
Government Islamic republic
 -  Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
 -  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
 -  First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi
 -  Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani
 -  Chief Justice Sadegh Larijani
Legislature Consultative Assembly
 -  Median Empire 625 BC 
 -  Safavid Empire 1501[2] 
 -  Islamic Republic 1 April 1979 
 -  Current constitution 24 October 1979 
 -  Total 1,648,195 km2 (18th)
636,372 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.7
 -  2010 estimate 76,923,300[3] (17th)
 -  2010 census 74.700.000 
 -  Density 45/km2 (163rd)
116.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $858.652 billion[4] (18th)
 -  Per capita $11,395[4] 
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $359.970 billion[4] 
 -  Per capita $4,777[4] 
Gini (2008) 38[5] (medium
HDI (2010) 0.702[6] (high) (70th)
Currency Rial (﷼) (IRR)
Time zone IRST (UTC+3:30)
 -  Summer (DST) Iran Daylight Time (IRDT) (UTC+4:30)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .ir
Calling code 98
3 Statistical Center of Iran. (in Persian). Retrieved 2009-02-13.  [dead link]
4 CIA Factbook

Iran ( or ; Persian: ایران; ), officially the Islamic Republic of Iran is a country in Central Eurasia and Western Asia.[7][8] The name Iran has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was also known to the western world as Persia.[9] Both Persia and Iran are used interchangeably in cultural contexts; however, Iran is the name used officially in political contexts.[10][11]

The 18th largest country in the world in terms of area at , Iran has a population of over 74 million.[12] It is a country of particular geostrategic significance owing to its location in the Middle East and central Eurasia. Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. As Iran is a littoral state of the Caspian Sea, which is an inland sea and condominium, Kazakhstan and Russia are also Iran's direct neighbors to the north. Iran is bordered on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, on the west by Iraq and on the northwest by Turkey. Tehran is the capital, the country's largest city and the political, cultural, commercial and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a regional power,[13][14] and holds an important position in international energy security and world economy as a result of its large reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations.[15][16][17] The first Iranian dynasty formed during the Elamite kingdom in 2800 BC. The Iranian Medes unified Iran into an empire in 625 BC.[1] They were succeeded by the Iranian Achaemenid Empire, the Hellenic Seleucid Empire and two subsequent Iranian empires, the Parthians and the Sassanids, before the Muslim conquest in 651 AD. Iranian post-Islamic dynasties and empires expanded the Persian language and culture throughout the Iranian plateau. Early Iranian dynasties which re-asserted Iranian independence included the Tahirids, Saffarids, Samanids and Buyids.

The blossoming of Persian literature, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and art became major elements of Muslim civilization and started with the Saffarids and Samanids. Iranian identity continued despite foreign rule in the ensuing centuries[18] and Persian culture was adopted also by the Ghaznavids,[19] Seljuq,[20][21] Ilkhanid[22] and Timurid[23] rulers. A turning point in Iran's was the emergence in 1501 of the Safavid dynasty[2]—who promoted Twelver Shi'a Islam[24] as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning points in the history of Islam.[25] "Persia's Constitutional Revolution" established the nation's first parliament in 1906, within a constitutional monarchy. Iran officially became an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979, following the Iranian Revolution.[26][27]

Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC. The political system of Iran, based on the 1979 constitution, comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The highest state authority is the Supreme Leader. Shia Islam is the official religion and Persian is the official language.[28]


The term Iran (ایران) in modern Persian derives from the Proto-Iranian term Aryānā, first attested in Zoroastrianism's Avesta tradition.[29] Ariya- and Airiia- are also attested as an ethnic designator in Achaemenid inscriptions. The term Ērān, from Middle Persian Ērān (written as ʼyrʼn) is found on the inscription that accompanies the investiture relief of Ardashir I at Naqsh-e Rustam.[30] In this inscription, the king's appellation in Middle Persian contains the term ērān (Pahlavi ʼryʼn), while in the Parthian language inscription that accompanies it, the term aryān describes Iran. In Ardeshir's time, ērān retained this meaning, denoting the people rather than the state. The name Iran is a cognate of Aryan, and means "Land of the Aryans".[31][32][33]

Notwithstanding this inscriptional use of ērān to refer to the Iranian peoples, the use of ērān to refer to the geographical empire is also attested in the early Sassanid period. An inscription relating to Shapur I, Ardashir's son and immediate successor, includes regions which were not inhabited primarily by Iranians in Ērān regions, such as Armenia and the Caucasus."[34] In Kartir's inscriptions the high priest includes the same regions in his list of provinces of the antonymic Anērān.[34] Both ērān and aryān come from the Proto-Iranian term Aryānām, (Land) of the (Iranian) Aryas. The word and concept of Airyanem Vaejah is present in the name of the country Iran inasmuch as Iran (Ērān) is the modern Persian form of the word Aryānā.

Since the Sassanid era the country has been known to its own people as Iran; however, to the western world, the official name of Iran from the 6th century BC until 1935 was Persia or similar foreign language translations (La Perse, Persien, Perzie, etc.).[10] In that year, Reza Shah asked the international community to call the country by the name "Iran". A few years later, some Persian scholars protested to the government that changing the name had separated the country from its past, so in 1959[35] Mohammad Reza Shah announced that both terms could officially be used interchangeably. Now both terms are common, but "Iran" is used mostly in the modern political context and "Persia" in a cultural and historical context. Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the official name of the country has been the "Islamic Republic of Iran."

Geography and climate

Iran is the eighteenth largest country in the world,[36] with an area of .[37] Its area roughly equals that of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany combined, or somewhat more than the US state of Alaska.[38] Its borders are with Azerbaijan () and Armenia () to the north-west; the Caspian Sea to the north; Turkmenistan () to the north-east; Pakistan () and Afghanistan () to the east; Turkey () and Iraq () to the west; and finally the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south.

Iran consists of the Iranian Plateau with the exception of the coasts of the Caspian Sea and Khuzestan. It is one of the world's most mountainous countries, its landscape dominated by rugged mountain ranges that separate various basins or plateaux from one another. The populous western part is the most mountainous, with ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros and Alborz Mountains; the last contains Iran's highest point, Mount Damavand at , which is not only the country's highest peak but also the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush.[39]

The northern part of Iran is covered by dense rain forests called Shomal or the Jungles of Iran. The eastern part consists mostly of desert basins such as the Dasht-e Kavir, Iran's largest desert, in the north-central portion of the country, and the Dasht-e Lut, in the east, as well as some salt lakes. This is because the mountain ranges are too high for rain clouds to reach these regions. The only large plains are found along the coast of the Caspian Sea and at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, where Iran borders the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab (or the Arvand Rūd) river. Smaller, discontinuous plains are found along the remaining coast of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman.

Iran's climate ranges from arid or semiarid, to subtropical along the Caspian coast and the northern forests. On the northern edge of the country (the Caspian coastal plain) temperatures rarely fall below freezing and the area remains humid for the rest of the year. Summer temperatures rarely exceed .[40][41] Annual precipitation is in the eastern part of the plain and more than in the western part.

To the west, settlements in the Zagros basin experience lower temperatures, severe winters with below zero average daily temperatures and heavy snowfall. The eastern and central basins are arid, with less than of rain, and have occasional deserts.[41] Average summer temperatures exceed . The coastal plains of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in southern Iran have mild winters, and very humid and hot summers. The annual precipitation ranges from .[41]


Iran's wildlife is composed of several animal species including bears, gazelles, wild pigs, wolves, jackals, panthers, Eurasian lynx, and foxes. Domestic animals include, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, water buffalo, donkeys, and camels. The pheasant, partridge, stork, eagles and falcon are also native to Iran.