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Mount Damavand, Iranian ruler, cultural region, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman

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Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, country in southwestern Asia, located on the northeastern shore of the Persian Gulf. One of the world's most mountainous countries, Iran contains Mount Damavand, the highest peak in Asia west of the Himalayas. The country’s population, while ethnically and linguistically diverse, is almost entirely Muslim. For centuries, the region has been the center of the Shia branch of Islam. Iran ranks among the world’s leaders in its reserves of oil and natural gas. As is the case in other countries in the petroleum-rich Persian Gulf region, the export of oil has dominated Iran’s economy since the early 20th century.

In the 6th century bc the territory of present-day Iran was the center of the Persian Empire, the world’s preeminent power at that time. For more than 2,000 years, the region’s inhabitants have referred to it by the name Iran, derived from the Aryan tribes who settled the area long ago. However, until 1935, when the Iranian ruler demanded that the name Iran be used, the English-speaking world knew the country as Persia, a legacy of the Greeks who named the region after its most important province, Pars (present-day Fars). Iran was a monarchy ruled by a shah, or king, almost without interruption from 1501 until 1979, when a yearlong popular revolution led by the Shia clergy culminated in the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of an Islamic republic.

Iran lies at the easternmost edge of the geographic and cultural region known as the Middle East. The country is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea, and Turkmenistan; on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; on the south by the Gulf of Oman, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Persian Gulf; and on the west by Iraq and Turkey. Iran’s capital and largest city is Tehran, located in the northern part of the country.


For younger readers

Greenblatt, Miriam. Iran. Children's Press, 2003. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Kheirabadi, Masoud. Iran. Chelsea House, 2003. In the Modern World Nations series, for grades 6 to 12.

Ramen, Fred. Historical Atlas of Iran. Rosen, 2003. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Spencer, Lauren. Iran: A Primary Source Cultural Guide. Rosen, 2004. For readers in grade 7 and up.

Spencer, William. Iran: Land of the Peacock Throne. Marshall Cavendish, 1996. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

Spencer, William. The United States and Iran. Twenty-First Century, 2000. Iran's relationship with the United States; for readers in grades 7 to 12.


Bellaigue, Christophe de. In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran. Harper Collins, 2005. Observations of a reporter for the Economist stationed in Iran.

Bill, James. The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations. Yale University Press, 1988, 1989. An analysis of relations between the two countries starting from the 1830s.

Kapuscinski, Ryszard. Shah of Shahs. Harcourt, 1985. A Polish journalist's account of life in Iran under the shah and of the revolution that overthrew him.

Keddie, Nikki R. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution. Yale University Press, 2003. An updated look at the country from a longtime observer.

Kurzman, Charles. The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran. Harvard University Press, 2004. An analysis of the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

Sciolino, Elaine. Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran. Free Press, 2000, 2001. From a New York Times correspondent who covered Iran for two decades.

Wright, Robin. The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran. Knopf, 2000. Vintage, 2001. Discussion of the impact of the Iranian Revolution on 1979.


Frye, Richard N. The Golden Age of Persia. Barnes & Noble, 1996. Explores the history of Persia for the 400 years following the spread of Islam there in the 7th century.

Wiesehofer, Josef. Ancient Persia: From 550 BC to 650 AD. IB Taurus, 1998. Comprehensive history of Persia from its origins to the Arab conquest in the 7th century AD.

Zeinert, Karen. The Persian Empire. Benchmark, 1996. For younger readers.


Hooglund, Eric, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Editor of Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies. Author of Twenty Years of Islamic Revolution and Land and Revolution in Iran, 1960-1980.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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