Iran also known as Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1980, is a country in Western Asia It is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, with Kazakhstan and Russia across the Caspian Sea; 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. With a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), this country in the Middle East is the 18th-largest country in the world, and with over 77 million people, is the world’s 17th-most populous nation
Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdom in 2800 BCE. The Iranian Medes unified Iran into the first of a series of empires in 625 BCE, after which it became the dominant cultural and political power in the region. Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire in 550 BCE, which at its greatest extent comprised major portions of the ancient world, stretching from the Indus Valley in the east, to Thrace and Macedon on the northeastern border of Greece, making it the largest empire the world had yet seen. Following its collapse from the conquests of Alexander the Great in 330 BCE, Iran once again became a great power under the Sasanian dynasty, exerting influence well beyond its borders.
In 633 CE, Arab Muslim armies invaded Iran and conquered the region by 651 CE. Iran would thereafter become a vital contributor to the subsequent Islamic Golden Age, producing many important scientists, scholars, artists, and thinkers. The emergence in 1501 of the Safavid dynasty, which promoted Twelver Shia Islam as the official religion, marked one of the most important turning points in Iranian and Muslim history. The Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 established the nation’s first parliament, which operated within a constitutional monarchy. Following a coup d’état instigated by the UK and the US in 1953, Iran gradually became a more autocratic country. Growing dissent against foreign influence and political repression culminated in the Iranian Revolution, which led to the establishment of an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979.
Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC. Its unique political system, based on the 1979 constitution, combines elements of a parliamentary democracy with a religious theocracy run by the country’s clergy, wherein the highest state authority is the Supreme Leader. A multicultural nation comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, Shia Islam is the official religion and Persian is the official language.