Monday, July 02, 2007

When Persia Became Iran

Last night one of my good friends who is a German music producer asked me a question that I failed to answer. To be honest with you not knowing the answer to his question made me kind of embarrassed. I mean as an Iranian I simply should know these things. He asked, " So how and when did the name Persia became Iran?". I paused and responded, " I don't know". But right then I promised myself to find out the answer to his question and I did. Many of you might already know his answer.

Here it is:

When "Persia" became "Iran"This article is a part of "Persia or Iran" by Professor Ehsan Yarshater, published in Iranian Studies, Vol. XXII, No.1, 1989.In 1935 the Iranian government requested those countries which it had diplomatic relations with, to call Persia "Iran," which is the name of the country in Persian. The suggestion for the change is said to have come from the Iranian ambassador to Germany, who came under the influence of the Nazis. At the time Germany was in the grip of racial fever and cultivated good relations with nations of "Aryan" blood. It is said that some German friends of the ambassador persuaded him that, as with the advent of Reza Shah, Persia had turned a new leaf in its history and had freed itself from the pernicious influences of Britain and Russia, whose interventions in Persian affairs had practically crippled the country under the Qajars, it was only fitting that the country be called by its own name, "Iran." This would not only signal a new beginning and bring home to the world the new era in Iranian history, but would also signify the Aryan race of its population, as "Iran" is a cognate of "Aryan" and derived from it. The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent out a circular to all foreign embassies in Tehran, requesting that the country thenceforth be called "Iran." Diplomatic courtesy obliged, and by and by the name "Iran" began to appear in official correspondence and news items. At first "Iran" sounded alien (for non-Iranians), and many failed to recognize its connection with Persia. Some (Westerners) thought that it was perhaps one of the new countries like Iraq and Jordan carved out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, or a country in Africa or Southeast Asia that had just been granted independence; and not a few confused it with Iraq, itself a recent entity. As time passed and as a number of events, like the Allied invasion of Iran in 1941 and the nationalization of the oil industry under Prime Minster Dr Mohammad Mosaddeq, put the country in the headlines, the name "Iran" became generally accepted, and "Persia" fell into comparative disuse, though more slowly in Britain than in the United States.


At 7:42 PM, July 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 7:16 PM, August 20, 2009, Anonymous Joshua said...

That's awesome! I've been wondering that for a while, myself. God bless the internet :)

At 2:50 PM, March 06, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just happened that I came to be curious about the word "Iran" and when it entered our language. I came upon your explanation when you were embarrassed not to know where the word came from and what it meant. Then, to clarify, you referred to an article by Dr. Yar Shater. His explanation is not accurate because the name of "Iran" was used a long time ago by the Qajar kings. Since I realized that you have gone to a wrong source, I would like to make a correction and you'd better correct the error on your website. The funny story is that the Iranian ambassador in Germany was persuaded to persuade the Iranian authority to change Persia to Iran and they did. In order to understand, I will send you a link to go there and see the coins by Qajar kings that they used Iran's name way before the Nazis was invented. It is really embarrassing for a student at the Kennedy Center not to know the name of the country that she came from. Instead of Yar Shater, you could go to the coins and see for yourself the "Iran" word was used on the coins and the stamps.

At 10:50 AM, November 01, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She is not wrong, and did not go to a wrong source.
You must have missed the sentence at the beginning that said,
That leads me to believe that everyone in Iran, who speaks persian, has been calling their country IRAN for who know how long.

Never once was it said that the name Iran was not used by the people of Iran/Persia.
The name of Iran was new only to the rest of the world who did not speak Persian.

Thank you Azadeh for your post.


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