Before 1935, the country of Iran was known by which name?

And the answer: Persia.    

Photo credit: Shutterstock. 

"Persia" was used for centuries, mainly by Western governments, to describe parts of modern-day Iran. However, the people of that region have traditionally called their country Iran, and that name was officially adopted in 1935.

The name "Persia" comes from the Persian Empire: a series of imperial dynasties that spanned from the 6th century BCE to the 20th century CE and encompassed much of the Middle East. In this sense, Persia used to refer to a much larger swath of land, undeterred by individual borders. However, Persia is now more accurately used to describe the ethnicity of many which call the region home.

Up until the early-mid 20th century, Iran was greatly influenced and controlled by British and Russian forces. However, in 1935, political officials in the nation decided that it would be wise to signal the changes that had come under the rule of Reza Shah – namely that Persia had freed itself from the grip of England and Russia. As such, they requested from foreign governments that it be known as Iran, a name which more accurately represented that which native speakers use to refer to their nation.

In a broader sense, modern Iranian people make up many varied ethnolinguistic groups. One of such groups are the Persians; yet many others include the Balochs, Gilaks, Kurds, and Lurs, to name a few. As a cognate of the word "Aryan," the name change to Iran was also a nod to the population’s Aryan community and a gesture to encompass all ethnicities in the country, not just Persians.

Learn more about the name change and history of Persia below.


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