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|Reza Shah Pahlavi|
|Reign||December 15, 1925 - September 16, 1941 (15 years, 9 months and 1 day)|
|Predecessor||Ahmad Shah Qajar|
|Successor||Mohammad Reza Pahlavi|
|Reign||October 28, 1923 - November 1, 1925|
Crown Prince Mohammad Reza
Prince Ali Reza
Prince Gholam Reza
Prince Ahmad Reza
Prince Mahmud Reza
Prince Hamid Reza
|House||House of Pahlavi|
March 15, 1878|
Alasht, Savad Kooh, Mazandaran, Persia
|Died||July 26, 1944
Johannesburg, South Africa
|Burial||Reza Shah's mausoleum in Ray, Tehran, Iran|
Rezā Shāh Pahlavi (Persian: رضاشاه پهلوی; pronounced [reˈzɑː ˈʃɑːhe pæhlæˈviː], born Rezā Khan (March 15, 1878 – July 26, 1944), was the Shah of the Imperial State of Iran from December 15, 1925, until he was forced to abdicate by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran on September 16, 1941.
In 1925, Reza Shah overthrew Ahmad Shah Qajar, the last Shah of the Qajar dynasty, and founded the Pahlavi dynasty. He established a system of government that revitalized the goals of the Constitutional Revolution of Iran where for the first time Iranians were seeking for rulers who do not remain in power for eternity. Known for being quite intelligent despite his lack of formal and academic education, Reza Shah introduced many socio-economic reforms, reorganizing the army, government administration and finances. To his supporters his reign brought "law and order, discipline, central authority, and modern amenities — schools, trains, buses, radios, cinemas, and telephones". However, his attempts at modernisation have been criticised for being "too fast".
His father Major Abbas Ali Khan (Dadash Beg) became commissioned in the 7th Savadkuh Regiment, and served in the Anglo-Persian War in 1856. He married more than once and his fifth marriage was in 1877, to Noushafarin Ayromlou. She was a second or third cousin of Sar-Lashkar Muhammad-Hussein Ayrom. The Ayrums were a prominent Azeri tribe from the Caucasus, who arrived in Iran sometime in the nineteenth century as result of the Russo-Persian War. Upon entering Iran, many Ayrums became Iranian generals, colonels, and some Ayrum women, namely Nimtaj and Noushafarin, became royalty. Although having once ruled much of the Caucasus from north to south, the Ayrums did not separate themselves from other social classes and one of the greatest Ayrum leaders, Budogh-Sultan Ayromlou, was known for his humble persona.
Reza's father died suddenly at Alasht on 26 November 1878, having had 10 children, of whom six sons and three daughters survived infancy. Upon Abbas Ali Khan's death, Reza's mother moved with Reza to her brother's house in Tehran. She remarried in 1879 and left Reza to the care of his uncle, who, in turn, sent Reza away to his friend Amir Tuman Kazim Khan, an army officer.
When Reza was sixteen years old, he joined the Persian Cossack Brigade, in which, years later, he would rise to the rank of Brigadier. In 1903 he is reported to have been guard and servant to the Dutch consul general Frits Knobel. A picture of him in Cossack uniform standing next to the mounted Dutch consul-general was published in De Hollandsche Revue. In 1925 Maurits Wagenvoort, a friend of Knobel, wrote: "was the present autocrat the same person as the one I once spoke to in the Babi-circle of Hadsji Achont when he was gholam of his Respected Presence the Netherlands' ambassador in Tehran?" He appeared to me most eager to learn about the Western political situation. And I shall never forget the expression of disillusion on his face when, in answer to his question, 'What? Aren't the elected people's representatives the most intelligent men of the nation?' I replied, 'Not a bit of it! Perhaps they are just a trifle above your average, everyday folk'. He continued, 'And the ministers then?' 'They are somewhat brighter. But not always.' He also served in the Iranian Army, where he gained the rank of gunnery sergeant under Qajar Prince Abdol Hossein Mirza Farmanfarma's command. He rose through the ranks, eventually holding a commission as a Brigadier General in the Persian Cossack Brigade. He was the last, and only Iranian, commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade. He was also one of the last individuals to become an officer of the Neshan-e Aqdas prior to the collapse of the Qajar dynasty in 1925.
In late 1920, the Persian Soviet Socialist Republic in Rasht was preparing to march on Tehran with "a guerrilla force of 1,500 Jangalis, Kurds, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis", reinforced by the Soviet Red Army. This fact, along with various other disorders, mutinies and unrest in the country created "an acute political crisis in the capital." On February 21, 1921, Reza Khan staged a coup d'état, together with Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee, to get control over a country which had practically no functioning central government at the time.
Commanding a Russian-trained Cossack Brigade, Reza Khan marched his troops from Qazvin, 150 kilometres to the west of Tehran, and seized key parts of the capital city almost without opposition and forced the government to resign. With the success of the coup, Tabatabaee became the Prime Minister of Iran. Reza Khan's first role in the new government was as commander of the army, which, in April 1921, he combined with the post of Minister of War. At the same time, he took the title Sardar Sepah (Persian: سردار سپه), or commander in chief of the army, by which he was known until he became shah.
While Reza Khan and his Cossack brigade were securing Tehran, the Persian envoy was in Moscow negotiating a treaty with the Bolsheviks for the removal of Soviet troops from Persia. Article IV of the Russo-Persian Treaty of Friendship allowed the Soviets to invade and occupy Persia, should they believe foreign troops were using it as a staging area for an invasion of Soviet territory. As Soviets interpreted the treaty, they could invade should events in Persia prove threatening to Soviet national security. The Soviets would hold this treaty over the heads of Persian leaders for years to come.
The coup d'état of 1921 and the emergence of Reza Shah were partially assisted by the British government, which wished to halt the Bolsheviks' penetration of Iran, particularly because of the threat it posed to the British possessions in India. It is thought that British provided "ammunition, supplies and pay" for Reza's troops. On 8 June 1932, a British Embassy report states that the British were interested in helping Reza Shah create a centralizing power. The commander of the British Forces in Iran, General Edmund Ironside, gave a situation report to the British War Office saying that a capable Persian officer was getting the command of the Cossacks and this "would solve many difficulties and enable us to depart in peace and honour."
In 1921, a number of revolts erupted against the coup. Among those, the Persian Soviet Socialist Republic, which had been established in Gilan, with Mīrzā Kūchak Khān as the prime minister. The Kurds of Khorasan also revolted in the same year.[verification needed]
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On October 26, 1923, Reza Khan got control of Iran after a long period of efforts toward restoring the previous Qajar monarchy, and the young Ahmad Shah Qajar fled to exile in Europe, where he preferred to stay. Reza Shah's political court consisted mostly of intellectuals and highly-educated prominent Iranians such as Mohammad Ali Foroughi, Karim Taherzadeh Behzad and Hassan Taqizadeh. The reign of Reza Shah was a real "brain trust" that returned to the constitutional revolution's goals after almost 15 years.  Reza Shah created the foundation of a new Iran where people would participate in constructing the future of their homeland. He now called for establishment of a Republic, and his educative system started a massive campaign for a Republic. However, the idea of a Republic was fiercely opposed by the powerful clergymen and the feudal landlords. Therefore Reza Shah as the constitution of Iran determined, became the King of Iran. He had to combat a numerous feudal aristocrats all over Iran which sought rural power in their territories. He put a collective pressure on the Parliament against the Qajar dynasty, and in October made arrangements to depose the young Shah. He assured the landlords and the conservative clergy that he would defend Islamic law and would not undertake any radical reform. The Majlis, convening as a constituent assembly on December 12, 1925, declared him the Shah as in the Constitution of Iran.
Three days later, on December 15, 1925, he took his imperial oath and thus became the first shah of the Pahlavi dynasty. It was not until April 25, 1926, that Reza Shah would receive his coronation and first place the Imperial Crown on his head. At the same ceremony his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was proclaimed the Crown Prince of Persia – to rule after his father.
Regarding modernization Reza Shah continued processes that had been started by Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, but which had been halted because of difficulties presented to the country during the First World War. During Reza Shah's sixteen years of rule, major developments, such as large road construction projects and the Trans-Iranian Railway were built, modern education was introduced and the University of Tehran was established. The government sponsored European educations for many Iranian students. The number of modern industrial plants increased 17-fold under Reza Shah (excluding oil installations), and the number of miles of highway increased from 2,000 to 14,000.
One important area of modernization of the new regime was public health. According to Pahlavi researcher Aban Tahmasebi, most of the Iranian cities faced a new health life, and they could finally begin to feel their life was similar to life in western countries.
Along with the modernization of the nation, Reza Shah was the ruler during the time of the Women's Awakening (1936–1941). This movement sought the elimination of the Islamic veil from Iranian working society. Supporters held that the veil impeded physical exercise and the ability of women to enter society and contribute to the progress of the nation. This move met opposition from the religious establishment. The unveiling issue and the Women's Awakening are linked to the Marriage Law of 1931 and the Second Congress of Eastern Women in Tehran in 1932.
Reza Shah was the first Iranian Monarch in 1400 years who paid respect to the Jews by praying in the synagogue when visiting the Jewish community of Isfahan; an act that boosted the self-esteem of the Iranian Jews and made Reza Shah their second most respected Iranian leader after Cyrus the Great. Reza Shah's reforms opened new occupations to Jews and allowed them to leave the ghetto. He forbade photographing aspects of Iran he considered backwards such as camels, and he banned clerical dress and chadors in favor of Western dress. The conception of modernization in the epoch of Reza Shah has to be still researched and analyzed, because it was the locus of the process of insertion of Iranian society into the free world with Iran no longer a third world country where mostly the law hardly existed. This epoch was a real re-awaking moment for Iran.
Reza Shah assisted the Ministers to secure the collective agreement of intellectuals, considered possible problematic characters to the evolution of the modern Iran. At the same time the system was strict toward the people who broke the laws of the country. For example his Minister of the Imperial Court, Abdolhossein Teymourtash, was accused and convicted of corruption, bribery, and misuse of foreign currency regulations. Now, researchers of the modern history of Iran know that he had contributed to the organization of plenty of reforms. Teymourtash was removed as the Minister of Court in late 1932 and died in September 1933. Various categories of society participated in the modernization of the country. These different classes, varied in experience and opinion, led to different views toward the political configuration of the Parliament.
In 1935, the Iranian ruler issued a letter to the League of Nations insisting the name Iran (the historical name of the nation dating back thousands of years) be used instead of Persia (Pars), which is the name of one Iran's significant cultural provinces and the national language (Parsi / Farsi). Although (internally) the country had been referred to as Iran throughout much of its history, many countries including the English-speaking world, knew the country as Persia; a legacy of the Greeks who referred to the entire region after the province of Pars (present-day Fārs). While Persians are only one of several Indo-Iranian ethnic groups in Iran, their home province Pars (Fārs) was a center of political power in ancient times under the Achaemenid Empire and Sassanid Empire as well as other Iranian dynasties hence the, somewhat misleading, usage of the name Persia (in other countries) up to 1935 when referring to Iran as a whole.
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A man as vigorous and authoritarian as the Shahanshah (Persian: شاه شاهان) was bound to have detractors. They contended he was nothing more than another Oriental despot, who caused several of his enemies to be murdered, tortured, kidnapped, and imprisoned. They claim he slapped Cabinet Ministers, assaulted priests, kicked irksome subjects in the crotch (it is said that, for tiresome gabbing, he once even booted Crown Prince Mohammed Reza into a palace fountain). They insist that Iran was ruled entirely by fear; bribery was still prevalent, taxation overpowering and Iran's 136-man National Assembly, the Majlis, and the Cabinet solidly puppetized. By this time, they contend, the One-Man New Deal had turned into a One-Man Corporate State, owning everything worth owning.
On the other hand, there were others who watched the Shah work over a period of years and admired him greatly. First of all, they argue that it is unfair to apply Western standards to Iran. Then, they point to some of the flowers of civilization which have blossomed in the West since 1933. They recall that, unlike Kemal Atatürk, he had no elite of European-educated intellectuals to help him. "Reza Khan made Iran out of nothing," they say and, knowing Persia and Persians, they insist that force was the only way.
One of the first acts of the new Government after the 1921 entrance into Teheran was to tear up the treaty with the U.S.S.R.. The Bolsheviks condemned the aggressive foreign policy of Imperial Russia, promised never to interfere in Persia's internal affairs, but reserved the right to occupy it temporarily in the event another power used Persia for an attack on Soviet Russia.
As the Shah grew in power, his mistrust of British Imperialism grew with it and he began to spit in the Lion's eye. In 1931, he forbade Imperial Airways to fly over Iranian territory. More staggering was his sudden cancellation, in 1932, of the old William Knox D'Arcy contract which had now burgeoned into the British Government-controlled Anglo-Persian (later Anglo-Iranian) Oil Co. Iran was getting 16% of the net profits. The Shah wanted 21%. The British took the dispute before the League of Nations. The Shah got what he wanted; the British got 30 more years on their concession.
Reza Shah initiated change in foreign affairs as well. The Shah worked to balance British influence with other foreigners and generally to diminish foreign influence in Iran.
In 1931, as said before, he refused to allow Imperial Airways to fly in Persian airspace, instead giving the concession to German-owned Lufthansa Airlines. The next year he surprised the British by unilaterally canceling the oil concession awarded to William Knox D'Arcy (and then called Anglo-Persian Oil Company), which was slated to expire in 1961. The concession granted Persia 16% of the net profits from APOC oil operations. The Shah wanted 21%. Following a brief challenge by the British before the League of Nations, the British acquiesced. He previously hired American consultants to develop and implement Western-style financial and administrative systems. Among them was U.S. economist Dr. Arthur Millspaugh, who acted as the nation's Finance Minister. Reza Shah also purchased ships from Italy and hired Italians to teach his troops the intricacies of naval warfare. He also imported hundreds of German technicians and advisors for various projects. Mindful of Persia's long period of subservience to British and Russian authority, Reza Shah was careful to avoid giving any one foreign nation too much control. He also insisted that foreign advisors be employed by the Persian government, so that they would not be answerable to foreign powers. This was based upon his experience with Anglo-Persian, which was owned and operated by the British government.
In his campaign against foreign influence, he annulled the 19th-century capitulations to Europeans in 1928. Under these, Europeans in Iran had enjoyed the privilege of being subject to their own consular courts rather than to the Iranian judiciary. The right to print money was moved from the British Imperial Bank to his National Bank of Iran (Bank-i Melli Iran), as was the administration of the telegraph system, from the Indo-European Telegraph Company to the Iranian government, in addition to the collection of customs by Belgian officials. He eventually fired Millspaugh, and prohibited foreigners from administering schools, owning land or traveling in the provinces without police permission.
Not all observers agree that the Shah minimized foreign influence. One complaint about his development program was that the north-south railway line he had built was uneconomical, only serving the British, who had a military presence in the south of Iran and desired the ability to transfer their troops north to Russia, as part of their strategic defence plan. In contrast, the Shah's regime did not develop what critics believe was an economically justifiable east-west railway system.
On 21 March 1935, he issued a decree asking foreign delegates to use the term Iran in formal correspondence, in accordance with the fact that Persia was a term used for a country identified as Iran in the Persian language. It was, however, attributed more to the Iranian people than others, particularly the language. Opponents[who?] claimed that this act brought cultural damage to the country and separated Iran from its past in the West (see Iran naming dispute). The name Iran means “Land of the Aryans”.
Tired of the opportunistic policies of both Britain and the Soviet Union, the Shah circumscribed contacts with foreign embassies. Relations with the Soviet Union had already deteriorated because of that country's commercial policies, which in the 1920s and 1930s adversely affected Iran. In 1932 the Shah offended Britain by canceling the agreement under which the Anglo-Persian Oil Company produced and exported Iran's oil. Although a new and improved agreement was eventually signed, it did not satisfy Iran's demands and left bad feeling on both sides. To counterbalance British and Soviet influence, Reza Shah encouraged German commercial enterprise in Iran. On the eve of World War II, Germany was Iran's largest trading partner. The Germans agreed to sell the Shah the steel factory he coveted and considered a sine qua non of progress and modernity. Nevertheless, according to the British embassy reports from Tehran in 1940, the total number of German citizens in Iran — from technicians to spies — was no more than a thousand.
His foreign policy, which had consisted essentially of playing the Soviet Union off against Great Britain, failed when those two powers joined in 1941 to fight the Germans. To supply the Soviet forces with war material through Iran, the two allies jointly occupied the country in August 1941.
Any serious discussion of the reign of Reza Shah would be meaningless without demarcating several distinct periods. During the first period, which lasted from 1925–1932, the country benefited greatly from the contributions of many of the country's best and brightest, to whom should accrue the credit for laying the foundations of modern Iran. All the worthwhile efforts of Reza Shah's reign were either completed or conceived in the 1925–1938 period, a period during which he required the assistance of reformists to gain the requisite legitimacy to consolidate this modern reign. In particular, Abdolhossein Teymourtash assisted by Farman Farma, Davar and a huge number of modern educated Iranians, proved adept at masterminding the implementation of many reforms demanded since the failed constitutional revolution of 1905–1911. The preservation and promotion of the country's historic heritage, the provision of public education, construction of a national railway, abolition of capitulation agreements, and the establishment of a national bank had all been advocated by intellectuals since the tumult of the constitutional revolution.
The later years of his reign were dedicated to institutionalizing the educational system of Iran and also to the industrialization of the country. He knew that the system of the constitutional monarchy in Iran after him had to stand on a solid basis of the collective participation of all Iranians, and that it was indispensable to create educational centers all over Iran.
Shah tried to create a confederation of Iran's neighbors, in particular Turkey and the Middle Eastern countries. Unfortunately, with the death of Kemal Atatürk and the start of the Second World War these projects were left unfinished.
The parliament assented to his decrees, the free press was suppressed, and the swift incarceration of political leaders like Mossadegh, the murder of others such as Teymourtash, Sardar Asad, Firouz, Modarres, Arbab Keikhosro and the suicide of Davar, ensured that any progress was stillborn and the formation of a democratic process unattainable. Shah treated the urban middle class, the managers, and technocrats with an Iron Fist; as a result his state-owned industries remained unproductive and inefficient. The bureaucracy fell apart, since officials preferred sycophancy, when anyone could be whisked away to prison for even the whiff of disobeying his whims. He confiscated land from the Qajars and from his rivals and into his own estates. The corruption continued under his rule and even became institutionalized. Progress toward modernization was spotty and isolated. He became totally dependent on his military force and the army, which in return regularly received up to 50 percent of the public revenue to guarantee its loyalty.
Although the landed upper class lost its influence during his reign, his new regime aroused opposition not from the gentry but mainly from Iranian "tribes, the clergy, and the young generation of the new intelligentsia. The tribes bore the brunt of the new order." 
In August 1941, the Allied powers Britain and the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Iran by a massive air, land, and naval assault, (see Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran) subsequently forcing Reza Shah to abdicate in favour of his son (see also Persian Corridor).
The Shah received with disbelief, as a personal humiliation and defeat, the news that fifteen Iranian divisions had surrendered without much resistance. Some of his troops dispersed and went home, while others were locked up in their barracks by the Allies.
The British left the Shah a face-saving way out:
|“||Would His Highness kindly abdicate in favour of his son, the heir to the throne? We have a high opinion of him and will ensure his position. But His Highness should not think there is any other solution.||”|
The Anglo-Soviet invasion was instigated in response to Reza Shah's declaration of Neutrality in World War II and refusal to allow Iranian territory to be used to train, supply, and act as a transport corridor to ship arms to Russia for its war effort against Germany. Reza Shah further refused the Allies' requests to expel German nationals residing in Iran, and denied the use of the railway to the Allies. However according to the British embassy reports from Tehran in 1940, the total number of German citizens in Iran - from technicians to spies - was no more than a thousand.
Because of its importance in the allied victory, Iran was subsequently called "The Bridge of Victory" by Winston Churchill.
Reza Shah was forced, by the invading British, to abdicate in favor of his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who replaced his father as Shah on the throne on September 16, 1941.
Reza Shah was then moved by invading British forces into exile to British territories, first to Mauritius, then to Durban, thence Johannesburg, South Africa, where according to his British captors, he died on July 26, 1944 of a heart ailment about which he had been complaining for many years. (His personal doctor had boosted the King's morale in exile by telling him that he was suffering from chronic indigestion and not heart ailment. He lived on a diet of plain rice and boiled chicken in the last years of his life.) He was sixty-six years old at the time of his death.
After his death, his body was carried to Egypt, where it was embalmed and kept at the royal Al Rifa'i Mosque in Cairo, (also the future burial place of his son, the exiled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi). Many years later, the remains were flown back to Iran, where the embalming was removed, and buried in a beautifully designed and decorated mausoleum built in his honor at town of Ray, in the southern suburbs of the capital, Tehran. Satellite map The Iranian parliament (Majlis) later designated the title "the Great" to be added to his name. On 14 January 1979, shortly before the Iranian Revolution, the remains were moved back to Egypt and buried in the Al Rifa'i Mosque in Cairo.
Following the Revolution in 1979, Reza Shah's mausoleum was destroyed by the newly formed Islamic state, at the direction of Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, which was sanctioned by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Many other historical sites were destroyed shortly thereafter.
Reza Shah's main critics were the so-called "new intelligentsia", often educated in Europe, for whom the Shah "was not a state-builder but an `oriental despot` ... not a reformer but a plutocrat strengthening the landed upper class; not a real nationalist but a jack-booted Cossack trained by the Tsarists and brought to power by British imperialists. His defenders included Ahmad Kasravi, an older intellectual who defended the Shah saying
Our younger intellectuals cannot possibly understand, and thus cannot possibly judge Reza Shah. They cannot because they were too young to remember the chaotic and desperate conditions out of which he arose.
Reza Shah's first wife, whom he married in 1894, was Maryam Khanum (died 1904). They had one daughter:
His second wife was Tadj ol-Molouk (1896–1982), by whom he had four children:
Reza Shah's fourth wife was Esmat Dowlatshahi (1904–1995), by whom he had five children:
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Rezā ShāhBorn: 15 March 1878 Died: 26 July 1944
Ahmad Shah Qajar
|Shah of Iran
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
|Prime Minister of Iran
|Commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade
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